Capitol Update: Business as “Usual” Means More Negotiations

Dear Apartment Industry Colleagues,

The shutdown is over, the debt limit was extended another three months and Congress is returning to business as usual. Right now, “usual” means another round of negotiations to find a deal addressing the federal government’s budget and fiscal challenges and avoid another situation such as what occurred in October. This was mandated by the agreement made to reopen the government and extend the debt limit, but expectations are not high for the success of this newest effort at a “grand bargain.” Working in our favor is the continuing specter of sequestration that looms large and will land on the federal budget – especially the defense budget – with both feet in January absent Congressional action. No one wants to see that happen and the best way out is a negotiated deal.

“Yeah, about that…”

In history there are phrases that come from the mouths of Presidents that become embedded in our minds. You might remember, “There you go again,” used effectively by Ronald Reagan in Presidential debates with Walter Mondale. Or, the infamous “Read my lips: no new taxes,” that helped derail the re-election campaign of George H.W. Bush. And finally, “It depends on what your definition of “is” is,” delivered by Bill Clinton during his Monica Lewinsky deposition. President Obama may have made his own contribution to the Presidential lexicon (and not even known it) when he said back in June 2009 in regards to the Affordable Care Act (ACA):

“If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period.”

It turns out that is not entirely true as reportedly more than two million Americans are finding out now that their current insurance plans will be discontinued because they do not meet the minimum standards required under the ACA. Whether it’s a good thing to have higher standards for health care is irrelevant. One of the law’s major selling points was that while there would be a mandate (or tax according to the U.S. Supreme Court) for all individuals to have insurance, no one would be forced to leave a plan they liked. I would look for more Congressional hearings in the near future on this issue as the law’s opponents continue to shine a bright light on its shortcomings.

“It [is] the best of times. It [is] the worst of times.”

This is a month of highs and lows for the Republican brand in America. On the low side, the party lost in its bid to win the Governor’s mansion in the Commonwealth of Virginia as ultra-conservative Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was defeated by long-time political operative Terry McAuliffe. Virginia is a swing state and many political observers felt that Republicans could have won with the right candidate, especially against someone like McAuliffe. At least in Virginia, the most aggressively conservative aspirant in the field is not always the right choice when the GOP picks its candidate.

The high came from the Garden State where Governor Chris Christie was re-elected by a monster margin becoming the first Republican statewide candidate to win more than 50 percent of the vote since 1988. The Christie victory certainly illustrates that Republicans can win in otherwise blue states (or at least in New Jersey), despite being conservative. The Governor’s no-nonsense approach, accessibility and public perception as a bipartisan leader have worked well for him. It is reminiscent of George W. Bush who was also a very popular governor, also had a reputation as being bipartisan and was incredible one-on-one. In two years we will see if Governor Christie will be as successful as the former President in using those attributes to win the White House.

The broader point from these two campaigns is that they illustrate the struggle between the two halves of the GOP. The two candidates are actually closer in substance then they might appear, but their style and strategy could not be more different. The Cuccinelli model tends to win more primary votes while the Christie model is likely to play better in the general election. Deciding which model to adopt is what faces the GOP in 2016.

“It’s March Madness baby!”

No, I am not getting on the college basketball bandwagon early. I am, however, getting fired up about the next NAA Capitol Conference! We are a mere four and a half months away from the 2014 Conference and it’s time for you to start planning. The conference takes place from March 9 to 12 in Washington, D.C., and is the one time each year that the apartment industry gathers together to lobby Congress on behalf of owners, operators and developers of rental housing. If you’re looking for one good reason to go, I’ll give you two:

  1.  If you don’t educate Congress on what to do when it comes to issues impacting the apartment industry, they might make the wrong choice. That would be bad. Come to the Capitol Conference and help Congress make good choices.
  2. You might know a lot about advocacy, but we can help you know more. The Capitol Conference schedule is packed with educational sessions, expert speakers on policy and politics, a briefing on the issues for Lobby Day and more. Come to the Capitol Conference and get smarter.


Helping Congress make good choices and getting smarter. Great reasons to come to the Capitol Conference! Registration is now open (as of Nov. 8) and available at http://capitol-naa.naahq.org/ along with highlights of the Conference program.
More information is coming soon. Be a part of the team from your community and state to make the apartment industry’s voice heard!

That is it for this month. As always, send me a note with questions, quips or disquiet about what I have written here. Thanks!

Greg

Greg Brown is NAA’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs. He joined NAA in the spring of 2010 to lead the expansion of the Government Affairs Department. Greg has been a housing advocate for 15 years, with a strong emphasis in multifamily issues. Tell him what you think about his musings.