Congress is heading home for Thanksgiving break, which for many lawmakers could not come soon enough.
If you think your workplace is stressful, consider that last week, a U.S. Senator nearly got into a fistfight with a union leader during a Senate hearing, a House Republican accused former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy of sucker-punching him in the kidneys, and a House Republican committee chair got into a shouting match with a Democrat, at one point accusing him of being a Smurf.
And that was just on Tuesday.
It’s perhaps no wonder that nerves are frayed on Capitol Hill, following a contentious fall that saw the overthrow of a House Speaker for the first time in U.S. history, a 22-day struggle to find someone else to take the job, two near-government shutdowns, and the censure of a House representative, all in the backdrop of two global crises and a looming Presidential election that will most likely be a bitter rematch between the 2020 candidates.
The good news, such as it is, is that Congress did manage, once again, to avoid a government shutdown at the last possible moment. On Thursday, President Biden signed a bipartisan measure to extend government funding into early next year – a little more than 24 hours before government agencies would have to shut their doors. The so-called “continuing resolution” funds some federal agencies until mid-January and others until early February. The goal is to give Congress enough time to come to agreement on full-year funding bills, but it also sets up the possibility of not one but two different shutdowns, one month apart.
In the House, Republicans had to rely on Democratic support to pass the bill as conservative Republicans objected to the chamber passing yet another continuing resolution. Passing such a bill with Democratic support is what ultimately led to McCarthy’s downfall in October, but new Speaker Mike Johnson’s job appears to be safe, for now.
While the passage of the continuing resolution was a relief, it does kick the can down the road on a number of very important issues Congress needs to address. They include passing the full-year appropriations bills (including the bill for the Department of the Interior, which funds numerous historic preservation programs), whether to provide aid to Ukraine and Israel, approving the annual defense budget bill, and others.
That means that for Congress, the next few months won’t be any easier than the last few. Expect some more fighting come December – both the political kind and, if last week is any guide, the physical kind, too.
ACRA Comments on ACHP Housing Policy Draft. ACRA urged the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) last week to consider addressing workforce and funding issues as part of its forthcoming Policy Statement on Housing and Historic Preservation.
According to ACHP, its Draft Statement is designed to “provide advice to all levels of government, community groups, nonprofit organizations, developers, and others in the private sector regarding the importance of gathering information relating to historic preservation and housing; reusing historic buildings; accelerating project permitting and environmental review; education; and collaboration.”
In its comments, ACRA praised the Council for drafting the statement, noting that “shortages of affordable housing – and the opportunities present in rehabilitating older and historic buildings to address the shortage – must be a national priority, as long as the rehabilitation process follows appropriate preservation review laws, regulations, and policies at every level of government.”
Recognizing that the success of Section 106 reviews depends upon the capacity and level of knowledge that state and federal preservation staff, ACRA recommended that the Council add, as a topic for study and dissemination, “surveying the current and anticipated future state of the public sector preservation workforce, including its capacity to handle reviews in a timely manner and its level of experience with the review process.”
In addition, ACRA asked the Council to add as a recommendation in their statement that stakeholders “work to increase funding for preservation offices, particularly at the state and Federal levels.”
Support Grows for Reauthorizing the Historic Preservation Fund. With the HPF’s authority to collect revenue from offshore drilling expiring last Sept. 30, ACRA and its preservation partners are lobbying Congress to pass legislation to renew and strengthen the Fund.
Reps. Mike Turner (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the co-chairs of the Congressional Preservation Caucus, have introduced H.R. 3350, legislation to reauthorize the HPF for ten years and increase its annual amount from $150 to $250 million, annually. Enacting this legislation will ensure that preservation offices from coast to coast have the resources needed to facilitate preservation reviews.
Thanks to grassroots efforts by ACRA members and others, the bill is gaining support, with nearly 20 members of Congress signing on as cosponsors. But the bill needs more support to have a chance of advancing in Congress.
Please take a moment to send a message to your House representatives to ask them to cosponsor H.R. 3350. Click here for information on contacting legislators and a sample message.