The 116th Congress convened last week with Democrats in control of the House for the first time in eight years as Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was reelected House Speaker. Among the new leadership is a fresh slate of committee chairs who will address issues of importance to real estate in the areas of tax; capital and credit; energy; infrastructure; homeland security and other policy areas. The lawmakers who will set agendas for key committees in a divided Congress include:
Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts – the long-standing co-chair of the House Real Estate Caucus – is the new Democratic chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee .
- Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts – the long-standing co-chair of the House Real Estate Caucus – is the new Democratic chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. He will be joined by 10 new Democratic committee members. Former Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) – a principal author of the 2017 tax overhaul law – now serves as ranking member. Neal has indicated he may hold several rounds of hearings on the legislation’s economic impact and alternative proposals. Ways and Means may also consider a technical corrections bill – including a correction related to the depreciation schedule for nonresidential, interior real estate improvements (Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 7 and Jan. 4)
- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-UT) is now the chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, following the retirement of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). This will be Senator Grassley’s third tenure at the helm of Finance. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) retains his ranking minority member seat. The committee may consider proposals affecting the retroactive renewal and extension of temporary tax breaks. Grassleyreleased his tax priorities for the committee yesterday and stated this week that Congress will not grant President Trump any expansion of his executive authority over tariff and trade issues. (Reuters, Jan. 9)
Capital and Credit:
- Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) is the first woman and African-American to lead the House Financial Services Committee. Among the wide-ranging issues addressed by the committee that would require Republican support for enactment is a long-term approach to Terrorism Risk Insurance. The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) has been extended three times since 2002 and is currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2020. Waters has historically been a strong supporter of TRIA and will play a pivotal role in the reauthorization process. The committee is also expected to address the reauthorization of National Flood Insurance Program, which is scheduled to sunset on May 31, 2019. Waters has also expressed interest in working with the Senate on reforming government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (Insurance Journal, Jan. 7) Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C), the House GOP’s former chief deputy whip, is now the committee’s ranking member.
- In the Senate, the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee is led by Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID), with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) serving as the ranking member. Along with terrorism risk insurance, flood insurance and reform of the GSEs, several capital formation proposals considered during last year’s lame duck session may be addressed by the committee in 2019. Last year, the committee passed important banking legislation to reduce regulatory burden and clarify the High Volatility Commercial Real Estate (HVCRE) rules.
Energy and Commerce
- The House Energy and Commerce Committee will be chaired by Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), who yesterday announced the Committee’s six subcommittees for the 116th Congress – including one on Environment and Climate Change. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) is the ranking member. Climate change will be a focus of the full committee’s first round of hearings. Policy issues affecting energy efficiency in buildings will likely be considered by the committee.
- House E&C also has jurisdiction over the public-private partnership “Brand USA” program to boost U.S. job creation, grow our economy, and reduce the foreign trade imbalance to attract more international travelers to visit our country. The Roundtable is a member of the Visit U.S. coalition, which advocates for Congress to reauthorize BrandUSA (which expires in 2020 without legislative action).
- Building codes that could promote increased energy efficiency may also be addressed by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, now chaired by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) serving as the ranking member. Murkowski is expected to propose a broad energy policy bill that she first introduced in 2015. (Roundtable Weekly, April 25, 2016)
- In addition to the climate subcommittee mentioned above, a House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis was announced by Speaker Pelosi in her opening remarks for the 116th Congress (Politico, Jan. 3). Chaired by Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), the committee was formerly a select committee on global warming and energy independence. (National Public Radio, Dec. 30)
- The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee will be led by Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-OR) with Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) as ranking member. DeFazio recently stated, “As Chairman, I will be a tireless advocate for the kind of infrastructure investment that results in job creation, increased economic growth, and decreased emissions.” (Committee News Release, Jan. 4)
- Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey D. DeBoer addressed the nation's evolving infrastructure needs in an interview on CNBC Squawkbox in June 2017. (Roundtable Weekly, Oct. 16, 2018).
- Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) will continue to chair the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee while Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) will remain the ranking Democrat. Legislation to reauthorize surface transportation programs – including the Highway Trust Fund that finances most federal spending for roads and mass transit – will likely be a priority for both committees.
- The Roundtable's Homeland Security Task Force (HSTF) and Real Estate Information Sharing and Analysis Center remain focused on information sharing and working with law enforcement and intelligence agencies to encourage measures that businesses can take to more effectively mitigate and manage risk from a variety of physical and cyber threats.
Immigration and Visa Policy:
- The House and Senate Judiciary committees have oversight over immigration-related issues such as the EB-5 investment program, visas to attract workers at all skill levels, and tourist visa reforms advocated by the Visit U.S. coalition to boost international travel to our country.
- The House Judiciary Committee will be chaired by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) with Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) as ranking member. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) takes the gavel of the Senate Judiciary Committee from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), with Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) returning as Ranking Member.
Many national policy issues affecting CRE that fall within the jurisdiction of these committees in the 116th Congress will be discussed at The Roundtable’s next State of The Industry business meeting and policy advisory committee meetings on Jan. 29-30 in Washington, DC.