Congress Returns with a Heavy Workload

By R.L. Condra, Vice President for Advocacy, NCBA CLUSA

The Capitol BuildingThe Capitol BuildingThe Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.

Congress returns next week from summer recess with a lot on its legislative plate including important fiscal deadlines that expire in September and October. Congress will need to pass a short term “continuing resolution” by September 30 to keep the federal government from shutting down. This is due to not being able to pass one of the 12 appropriation bills that fund our government. Another deadline, and one that is vital to our government and economy, is the need to raise the debt limit that will cap in October. The White House will have to work out a deal with Republicans on increasing the debt limit in exchange for their demands on spending cuts and changes to “Obamacare.”

Additionally, there are major pieces of legislation that Congress will have to tackle such as passing a farm bill that will expire by the end of September, an immigration reform bill and comprehensive tax reform. CEO’s and executives in the business and financial industries including many cooperative sectors are anxiously waiting to see how Congress addresses tax reform when they plan to release bill drafts this fall.

While there are important domestic responsibilities that need to be addressed, the situation in Syria will be the focus when the Congressional session begins next week. For September, the House has only nine working days and the Senate has 16 to accomplish their legislative requirements. How will they do this in such a short time?

A senior Senate aide provided a breakdown of the priorities for the next few weeks. The aide said, “We will have to address the situation in Syria, then take care of our fiscal responsibilities such as appropriation bills and the debt ceiling. Once we have our fiscal house in order, we will be able to focus on issues such as immigration reform and other domestic issues.”

The National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) is the apex association for cooperative businesses in the United States and an international development organization. NCBA CLUSA provides cross-sector education, support, and advocacy that helps co-ops thrive. For nearly 100 years NCBA CLUSA has sought to advance and protect cooperative enterprises, highlighting the impact that cooperatives in bettering the lives of individuals and families. In the last 60 years, NCBA CLUSA has grown its international development portfolio to over $34 million of active programs in 15 countries.

Will there be a Farm Bill?

By R.L. Condra, vice president of advocacy, NCBA CLUSA

Tractor 350x350Tractor 350x350For decades, the farm bill has been a legislative tool that guides farm and nutrition policy for both the agriculture industry and the federal government. The comprehensive bill is passed every five years and oversees industry sectors outside of the agriculture scope, including trade, rural development, conservation, and research. During the process of passing a farm bill, there is usually heated debate on its policies and budget, but the final product is passed with bipartisan support from lawmakers. As is the case with most legislative responsibilities of the current Congress, the outlook for passage of the farm bill is doubtful heading towards a September 30 deadline when the current bill expires.

What’s holding up passage of the bill?

The Senate passed its version, but the House of Representatives’ bill failed passage due to disagreements over the funding of the food stamp program known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. To complicate matters, the House then took out the nutrition title of the bill, which included SNAP funding, and approved the agriculture portion of the legislation.

Next Steps

When Congress returns in September, the House is scheduled to pass the nutrition title if it can agree on food stamp funding levels. If passed, the two Congressional chambers will need to negotiate their differences with a conference committee, but even then, there will be differences in funding levels and policy priorities. By the way, the House has only nine working days in September and the Senate has 16 before the current bill expires at the end of the month.

At this point, no one in Washington is certain on how this process will play out. Will there be an extension of the farm bill? If so, how long? Will it be included in a continuing resolution and debt ceiling agreement? Or, will Congress possibly extend the 2008 bill? Stay tuned to the CBJonline for updates about the farm bill in the next few weeks.

If you have questions or comments about the farm bill or other legislative matters, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Housing Cooperative Bill Receives Additional Support

By R. L. Condra, Vice President for Advocacy, NCBA CLUSA

Last month, Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY) along with 13 other lawmakers introduced a bipartisan supported bill to make housing cooperatives eligible for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster assistance funding program. Due to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy to many housing cooperatives in the New York and New Jersey areas, we have learned that FEMA recognizes housing cooperatives and condo associations as “business associations” and does not provide disaster assistance as they do for other types of housing such as single-family homes.

FEMA Housing Co-op 350x350FEMA Housing Co-op 350x350NCBA CLUSA is working with Congressman Israel’s office and other members of Congress to pass legislation to change this oversight. This issue has recently caught the attention of national media outlets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. Additionally, the issue has gained support from two powerful U.S. Senators. On August 1, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a companion bill to the House of Representative’s bill.

Read the full Washington Post article

The FEMA issue was featured in an August 16 Washington Post real estate column titled “House Lawyer: In seeking storm relief, condos and co-ops find not all homeowners are equal.” The writer, Benny Kass, makes the point that the misclassification of housing cooperatives by FEMA not only neglects Hurricane Sandy victims, but also affects housing cooperatives in Washington, D.C and other cities across the country when future disasters occur.

Mr. Kass writes, “The storm impacted the Washington area, but fortunately we did not experience the extent of damage and destruction that took place in the Northeast. This does not mean, of course, that those of us who live in this area should be complacent. There are countless condominium and cooperative associations in our area, and they could face the same issues if a storm strikes us more directly next time.”

In the Post article, Congressman Israel explains the need for a better understanding from FEMA on the cooperative model, “A storm does not discriminate where it hits,” Israel said, “and FEMA should not be discriminating what type of homeowners it helps. It seems clear that FEMA’s policy is the result of not understanding the role of co-ops and condos in our community.”

To learn more about the legislative bills, please go to http://thomas.loc.gov/ and type in the bill numbers: S.1480 and H.R. 2887. If you are interested in your member of Congress supporting this legislation, please contact R.L. Condra, NCBA CLUSA Vice President of Advocacy, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 202-383-5480.

Congressional Appropriations Process Comes to a Grinding Halt

By R.L. Condra, Vice President of Advocacy, NCBA CLUSA
 
2013 US Budget 350x3502013 US Budget 350x350Every year, Congress is responsible for passing appropriations bills to keep the U.S. government operating. These 12 bills which fund everything from highways, education, national parks to the Department of Agriculture Rural Cooperative Development Grant program depend on this process require passage by September 30 of each year to keep the government from shutting down. As in previous years, Congress is not close to passing these bills. This comes on the news of the House’s failure to pass the Transportation and Housing funding bill the week before Congress went on its six week August recess.
 
Of the 12 funding bills, the House of Representatives has passed four bills and the Senate has passed zero. When Congress returns from its August break on September 9, they will have nine working days left to finish the bills, which at this point, would be almost impossible. What does this mean to the average Joe? In the past, when Congress has not been able to finish their work, they would pass a temporary fix called a continuing resolution (also known as a “CR”). The continuing resolution allows the government to operate at the previous year’s funding levels until Congress is able to pass the current appropriation bills.
 
It is uncertain if this Congress will be able to pass a continuing resolution due to their disagreements on spending levels and the debt ceiling. This could lead to a government shutdown that would affect all cooperators and would be the lead story on the nightly news. According to an article by the National Journal, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was asked whether he thinks Senate Democrats and Republicans could agree on a continuing resolution by the end of the fiscal year on September 30, Reid declined to prognosticate.
 
"Time will only tell. We'll see," he said, adding later that Democrats will not negotiate on the debt ceiling, which he argued is what the Republicans want.
 
"We're not negotiating what we're going to do," Reid said. "The president said he will not negotiate on the debt ceiling, OK? That's what these guys are out here talking about."
 
Stay tuned to CBJonline for updates on the appropriations process. Also, please join us on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 for NCBA CLUSA’s monthly Legislative and Advocacy Update webinar featuring our Capitol Hill experts as they discuss cooperative legislative matters and current issues in Washington.
 

 

POLITICO Features NCBA CLUSA's Work Supporting Credit Union Tax Exemption

David Camp 350x350David Camp 350x350The National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) was featured in POLITICO's Morning Tax column for its advocacy efforts to block the move by big banks and some in Congress to raise taxes and impose new fees on 96 million credit union members who represent 40% of all Americans, yet represent only 6% of assets in financial institutions.

CREDIT UNIONS KEEP UP PRESSURE IN AUGUST. Members of the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International released details today of letters sent to members of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees, pressing for tax reform to retain the tax exemption for credit unions.

"This wise, common sense tax policy enables credit unions to...”

Read more on Politico.com »

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