116th Congress Convenes

Yesterday, the newly elected 116th Congress convened in Washington, DC.

The U.S. House of Representatives elected Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, returning her to a role she last held from 2007 through 2011. In the U.S. Senate, the Republican majority increased to 53 Senators. Of the newly elected Senators, seven are Republicans and two are Democrats.

The House is expected to focus on a combination of legislative policy initiatives, as well as robust oversight of the Trump Administration. One of the first orders of business for both the House and Senate will be to pass an appropriations bill to end the current partial government shutdown. The shutdown, which began on December 21st, enter its third full week at midnight tonight.

Partial Government Shutdown

Of particular importance for youth and young adult homelessness programs, the shutdown does not include the majority of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Approximately 60% of HHS programs and offices, including the Administration for Children & Families and the Family & Youth Services Bureau, have been fully funded through the end of the 2019 fiscal year (September 30, 2019). This means there should be no (or minimal) disruption to any Runaway and Homeless Youth Act grants. Read more about HHS’s Contingency Plan for affected programs and offices.

The shutdown does include the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), as well as the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. HUD’s Contingency Plan for a shutdown indicates that the Office of Community Planning and Development will continue to disburse Homeless Assistance Grant funds that have already been obligated. Read more about HUD’s Contingency Plan online.

The following federal agencies are also included in the current shutdown:

  • State
  • Treasury
  • Justice
  • Agriculture
  • Commerce
  • Transportation
  • Homeland Security
  • Interior (most of)
  • Executive Office of the President
  • Federal Judiciary
  • Many Independent Agencies (such as the Smithsonian Institution or the United States Agency for International Development)

You can review a full list of impacted agencies, and links to their contingency plans, on the Office of Management and Budget’s website.

Next Steps

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to fund most of the closed agencies through the end of the current 2019 fiscal year (September 30th). Another bill would fund the Department of Homeland Security through February 8th, allowing time for continued negotiations on the President’s demands for “border wall” funding.

The President has previously indicated that he will not sign an agreement providing less than $5.7 billion for physical border security. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated that the Senate will not bring up any legislation that will not gain the President’s support.  This includes the legislation that the House has now passed, which includes spending levels consistent with those that the Senate unanimously agreed to last November.

The President and Congressional leaders from both parties held discussions at the White House on Wednesday, and are scheduled to meet again today. However, any significant developments will likely wait until next week.