The new year started chaotically in Washington, as it took the House 15 tries to elect Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as Speaker of the House, ushering in at least two years of divided government and likely more partisan battling.

With Republicans holding a narrow majority in the House and Democrats maintaining a slim majority in the Senate (plus the White House), it’s anybody’s guess whether the two sides will be able to get anything done. But with a slew of must-do legislation to address, and a long list of campaign promises each party made last November, how the next two years play out may have large impacts on CRM.

Here are a few ways in which the debates in Washington could affect the industry:

Permitting Reform. The last Congress ended without action on a permitting reform proposal from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), which was blocked by concerns from progressive Democrats that it went to far in streamlining environmental rules and from conservative Republicans that it did not go far enough. With the GOP in control of the House, we expect there to be a concerted effort to amend the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

One bill introduced in Congress’ first week gives a taste of what may come: H.R.209, introduced by Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN), would shorten the hardrock mining permitting review process under NEPA so that environmental assessments would take no more than 12 months and environmental impact statements would take no longer than two years. It also would prohibit lawsuits against permitting decisions more than 120 days after such a decision has been made. Although the bill would have a hard time passing the Democratic-controlled Senate, the push by Sen. Manchin to pass some kind of permitting reform (not to mention the fact that Manchin is up for re-election in heavily Republican West Virginia in 2024 and is looking for policy victories) means the chances of something passes are fairly good.

Historic Preservation Funding. The Historic Preservation Fund (HPF), which helps support the work of state and Tribal preservation offices and other preservation activities, expires at the end of September. Although Congress could still allocate money from the Fund even if it expires, allowing the program to sunset would send a troubling signal about Congressional support for preservation and the protection of cultural resources.

In the last Congress, ACRA and its preservation allies worked to advance legislation, the Historic Preservation Enhancement Act, that would not only make the Fund permanent, obviating the need for legislation to renew it, but would double the amount authorized to go into the fund each year from the current $150 million to $300 million. We expect the bill to be re-introduced this Congress,  but with a divided government, its chances of passing are less certain than before.  At a time when S/THPOs are having to address massive numbers of new projects funded by the 2021 infrastructure law, cutting off funding for their work would have serious impacts on the ability of states, Tribes and CRM firms to conduct timely Sec. 106 reviews.

The Debt Ceiling. Although the debate over raising the debt ceiling is not have a direct impact on CRM, it could have major consequences for the entire economy.

The debt ceiling is the legal limit on how much the federal government can borrow to pay for programs it has already funded. When the ceiling is reached, Congress must vote to raise it, which it has done almost 90 times in the last 100 years.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said last week that the U.S. will hit its current debt ceiling this week and called on Congress to raise it. House Republicans have said that they will not vote to raise it unless such a move is accompanied by significant spending cuts; Democrats are calling for a “clean” debt ceiling increase, accusing Republicans of holding the debt ceiling hostage to their policy demands.

If the debt ceiling is reached, the U.S. government would not be able to pay its obligations, meaning everything from paying salaries of military personnel and federal workers, to running federal agencies, to paying interest on debt its incurred. Economists say that such a move would be devastating to not just the U.S. economy, but could cause global financial instability. For the CRM industry, such a move would also make it harder for those with federal contracts to receive timely payment.

Learn More About What’s in Store for CRM

With these and other issues confronting Congress and the White House in 2023, what does it all mean for CRM?

Find out on Tuesday, February 7, at 2:00pm EST for The 2023 Outlook for CRM in Washington. This webinar will explore the current legislative and regulatory environment, the outlook for the year, and ACRA’s 2023 government relations priorities.

You will also learn how to make a direct impact on the issues you care about the most. From engaging policymakers to communicating your message effectively, you will come away with the skills you need for advocating for your business, your family, and your community.

This webinar is FREE for ACRA members and available to non-members for $15. Spaces are limited – register NOW to reserve your spot!