Workplace Return

House Legislation Would Require Federal Employees' Return-to-Office, Agencies’ Plans on Property Leases

Federal Office Building

Legislation introduced in the House this week would require all federal agencies to revert to pre-pandemic office arrangements that were in effect on December 31, 2019 and give employees 30 days to return to their offices. The bill, if enacted, would also require the Biden administration to provide Congress with a plan to mitigate the negative impacts of remote work and report on agencies’ plans for federal property leases. [Bill text of (H.R. 139)]

SHOW UP Act

House Oversight and Reform Committee logo
  • The Stopping Home Office Work’s Unproductive Problems (SHOW UP) Actintroduced this week by House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-KY)—reflects the views recently expressed by The Real Estate Roundtable to President Joe Biden about the importance of getting more federal workers back to the workplace. (GlobeSt, Jan. 13  and Roundtable letter, Dec. 12, 2022)

  • The Dec. 12, 2022 letter from Roundtable Chair John Fish and President & CEO Jeff DeBoer urged the administration to consider the consequences of federal agencies’ promotion of permanent remote work—and how it magnifies ongoing, harmful economic impacts on cities, local tax bases, and small businesses. The Roundtable letter also noted how agencies should consider how hybrid work arrangements directly affect governmental service delivery and labor productivity. (Roundtable WeeklyDec. 2 and Dec. 16, 2022)

  • The SHOW UP Act would also require the administration to report to Congress on how pandemic-era telework levels affected agencies’ missions, along with federal property lease plans. (Federal News Network, Jan. 11)

  • Similar legislation was introduced in the last Congress by former Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-NM) to address how expanded, pandemic-era telework arrangements negatively impacted agencies’ missions. (One-page backgrounder and Federal News Network, May 20, 2022)

Federal Agencies’ Leases

State of the Union address President Biden March 2022
  • Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also recently called on President Biden to get more federal workers back to the workplace and convert underutilized commercial real estate spaces into affordable housing. (Roundtable Weekly, Jan. 6)

  • President Biden commented on federal return-to-the-workplace efforts in his March 2022 State of the Union address, above. “It’s time for America to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again with people. People working from home can feel safe and begin to return to their offices. We’re doing that here in the federal government. The vast majority of federal workers will once again work in person,” Biden said. (White House transcript, March 1, 2022)

  • A General Accounting Office (GAO) survey last year reported that 24 federal agencies planned to reduce their leased space. Sixteen agencies surveyed said they would reduce the number of leases and 19 planned to reduce square footage over the next three years. (GlobeSt, Sept. 15, 2022 and GAO Report, Sep. 7, 2022)

  • The GAO survey noted that “… in a post-COVID-19 environment agencies are likely to significantly reduce their demand for federal real estate due to changes to telework and remote policies.” A footnote in the report added, “GSA leases typically have a date after which GSA can terminate the lease with as little as 90 days’ notice.” (Full GAO report)

In addition to the Washington, DC region, cities throughout the nation are responding to the impact of hybrid work arrangements on local communities and tax bases. Roundtable members will hear about this significant issue during our Jan. 24 State of the Industry Meeting in Washington from Miami Mayor Francis Xavier Suarez, who also serves as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

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Policy Landscape

118th Congress Faces Looming Debt Ceiling and Funding Deadlines

Janet Yellen testifying

Today, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen notified Congress that the federal government is expected to reach its $31.4 trillion debt limit by Jan. 19, officially triggering the start of a potential standoff between House Republicans, the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the White House about how to increase the debt ceiling. (New York Times and Politico Playbook PM, Jan. 13)

Looming Standoff

  • Yellen wrote, “Failure to meet the government’s obligations would cause irreparable harm to the U.S. economy, the livelihoods of all Americans, and global financial stability.” (Yellen letter, Jan. 13)

  • Yellen noted that while the Treasury will take steps to preserve cash, the government may only be able to pay its financial obligations until early June. Treasury’s “extraordinary measures” could include halting pension fund contributions and prematurely redeeming federal bonds. (New York Times, Jan. 13 | Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Oct. 28, 2022)

  • The 118th Congress will eventually need to raise the debt limit to avoid a first-ever national default and global recession. (Politico, Jan. 12)

  • Some Republicans have discussed achieving spending cuts by setting caps on discretionary government funding at FY 2022 levels. This approach would result in a cut of approximately $130 billion from current levels appropriated in the omnibus spending law enacted last month—a non-starter for Democrats. (The Hill, Jan. 10 | Roll Call,  Jan. 9 | Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 22)

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) secured his new position as House Speaker on Jan. 7 by appeasing a small group of hardline Republican conservatives with concessions, which included unspecified spending cuts in exchange for raising the national debt ceiling. (Reuters, Jan. 7 and AP, Jan. 11)

  • White House officials are mounting an outreach campaign to freshman lawmakers and moderate Republicans in an attempt to attract enough votes to avoid a fiscal cliff vote over the debt ceiling. (Politico, Jan. 12)

Government Funding Deadline

Rep. French Hill

  • Another deadline on the financial horizon is Sept. 30, when funding for the federal fiscal year expires. A legislative standoff on spending priorities could lead policymakers to vote on a “Continuing Resolution (CR)” to fund the government programs at current levels or allow a partial government shutdown. (CQ, Dec. 29, 2022)
  • Rep. French Hill (R-AR), above, one of Speaker McCarthy's allies who helped negotiate with the hardline GOP faction, said Republicans were seeking to design an automatic trigger for a CR in the event that the Senate does not act on House spending proposals.

  • Hill said, "It would be a way for all members of Congress to say, look, we want to fund our government, we want to rein in spending. But if the Senate doesn't act in the right way, we've agreed on this CR that would be triggered by the lack of certain bills not being passed on Oct. 1." (CQ, Jan. 9)

Rep. Hill will address policymaking in the 118th Congress and capital markets during The Roundtable’s State of the Industry Business Meeting on Jan. 24 in Washington.

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Tax Policy

New House Republican Ways and Means Chairman Promises Focus on Working Families, Wages, and Investment

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO)

Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), above, won a three-candidate race this week in the 118th Congress to become the youngest-ever chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax policies affecting commercial real estate. Former Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) now becomes the panel’s ranking member. (Roll Call and Wall Street Journal, Jan. 9)

Chairman Smith

  • Rep. Smith is a 42-year-old lawyer who was first elected to the House in 2012. He served as the top Republican on the House Budget Committee in the previous Congress, and is a close ally of new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). (PoliticoPro, Jan. 9)

  • Rep. Smith was a leading supporter of Roundtable-supported legislation introduced in 2021 to make permanent the 20 percent deduction for qualified pass-through business income (Section 199A). The pass-through deduction was enacted on a temporary basis as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in 2017. Rep. Smith also spoke at The Roundtable’s Tax Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC) in June 2016 at the height of the tax reform debate. (Smith news release, Feb. 26, 2021 and stakeholder letter of support).

  • There are only five remaining Republican members on Ways and Means who served on the panel when the TCJA was enacted. Several TCJA provisions are scheduled to expire at the end of 2025, including Section 199A and the limitation on the deductibility of state and local taxes. (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 9)

A New Agenda

House Ways and Means Committee doorway
  • On Monday, Ways and Means Chairman Smith stated, “We will build on the success of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and examine how our policies can reward working families with a tax code that delivers better jobs, higher wages, and more investment in America.”  He added that he would aim to use the tax code to strengthen American supply chains, encourage domestic energy production, and achieve energy independence. (Smith statement, Jan. 9)

  • On Dec. 7, 2022, Rep. Smith also discussed key priorities that should be addressed by the Ways and Means Committee with Punchbowl News. (Watch video)

  • House Republicans added 10 new members to the Ways and Means Committee on Jan. 11, and six Republican women will be part of the 25-seat majority on the panel. Subcommittee chairs will not be decided for several weeks, according to Chairman Smith. (BGov, Jan. 12)

TPAC will discuss industry tax priorities in the 118th Congress during their next meeting on Jan. 25 in conjunction with The Roundtable’s State of the Industry Meeting in Washington, DC.

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