While some communities are still counting votes, there are enough final results to provide a general idea of what the 118th Congress will look like. This post will give my initial thoughts about how Congress has changed, and what that means for advocating to end homelessness.
First, let’s break down the partisan overview: in the Senate, Democrats will still have control, either with a 50-50 split and Vice President Harris breaking ties; or with a 51-49 majority. That will depend on the results of a runoff election in Georgia on December 6. It does make some differences. A clear majority would give Democrats more control over Committee agendas, and of course would allow them to pass measures with one member opposing, or with two members abstaining or absent.
In the House, Republicans have taken back the majority, probably with somewhere between 220 and 222 seats once all the counts are finished. This is a small majority, and whether the Republican leadership in the House can keep it unified remains to be seen.
New people will occupy top leadership spots for House Democrats, as Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer have announced they will not seek Minority leadership positions. Many other members of the House and Senate will be in new positions in leadership, or on different Committees. Not all of those decisions have been made yet. And there will be many brand new Members, in both the House and Senate. The Alliance will have more on this shortly after the new Congress begins in January.
What This Means for Homelessness
Congressional transitions can indicate important shifts in policy priorities. Here are some implications for advocacy to end homelessness:
- Nothing will pass without some bipartisan support. Ending homelessness has for many years been an issue that both parties can get behind. Regardless of party, lawmakers know that proven models for ending homelessness are successful, that there is a cost of inaction to both governments and businesses, and that ending homelessness improves communities (including those they represent). As we focus more on the importance of larger housing investments, it will be important to talk not only about efficiency and cost, but also about compassion, justice, and how ending homelessness is a goal virtually everyone can support. Achieving it would help our entire country.
- Building new relationships is essential. Every Member of Congress needs to understand that homelessness is an issue their constituents care about. Some new Members may be surprised to find out how important homelessness is to mayors, business leaders, and churches in their communities – and how there are organized groups of advocates that won’t let them forget about it. It will be critical going forward for these stakeholders to let Congress know what it needs to do to end homelessness.
- We’ll need to keep talking about Housing First. Fortunately, three things about this are true: 1. Despite some dissent, a lot of Republicans in Congress are already convinced; 2. health care leaders and others are on our side and activated; and 3. evidence shows that Housing First works.
The Alliance will be publishing a suggested policy agenda for the coming year, as well as educational materials that can help people get their Representatives and Senators on board, starting with decisions that might be made over the next two weeks by the 117th Congress.
Please let us know what would be helpful to you, and don’t forget to sign up for advocacy alerts so that you can support this work.