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Political Notebook

US sets aside nearly $5b for housing assistance

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia FudgeDrew Angerer/Getty/File

Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge on Thursday unveiled nearly $5 billion in new grants to states and local governments across the country for rental assistance, the development of affordable housing, and other services to help people experiencing or on the verge of homelessness.

The infusion of money to reduce homelessness, part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that President Biden signed in March, is the latest example of how the administration is using the American Rescue Plan to enact a sweeping anti-poverty agenda amid the pandemic.

’'Let me be clear. These funds could not come at a more critical time,’' Fudge said.

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The former Ohio congresswoman appeared over Zoom with Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio; Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer; and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.

The grants, which must be spent by 2030, can also be used for noncongregate shelter, such as hotel and motel rooms, for people who are homeless. The money will be allocated through a Housing and Urban Development program designed to create affordable housing for low-income families.

This $5 billion in grants is the first of two funding streams to address homelessness in the American Rescue Plan. In the coming weeks, Fudge expects to announce how additional money for emergency housing vouchers will be allocated.

While these dollars deliver near-term relief to homeless individuals and families and those at risk of losing their homes, Fudge said Biden’s $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, unveiled last week, would bring additional funding necessary to end homelessness and housing instability. Biden’s jobs and infrastructure plan would include $213 billion for housing programs, including $40 billion to improve public housing.

Washington Post

White House plays down Manchin’s comments

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield sought Thursday to play down the impact of an op-ed from Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, insisting on bipartisanship on the prospects for President Biden steering his $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure package through the chamber.

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In the op-ed, published by The Washington Post, Manchin decried efforts to eliminate the filibuster and also lamented the use of the budget reconciliation process by both parties to pass legislation without the support of senators across the aisle. Under the process, legislation can advance with a majority vote rather than the 60 votes need to advance most bills.

Republicans used the process to pass tax cuts and changes under the Trump administration and in a failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Democrats used it to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill and are viewing it as a vehicle for additional spending and tax proposals on a range of issues, including infrastructure.

Though Manchin voted for the COVID relief bill and did not rule out supporting such a legislative maneuver again, he wrote: “I simply do not believe budget reconciliation should replace regular order in the Senate.”

Speaking to CNN on Thursday, Bedingfield said Biden expects “a little bit longer” process on his jobs and infrastructure bill and wants to work with Republicans.

“This is how the process plays out,” she said. “This is how it’s supposed to work. Senators raise their issues and concerns, and we’ll work through the process. I mean, President Biden has said himself many times that his preference is to do this through regular order.”

“The only thing that is unacceptable to him is inaction,” she added. “So he’s ready to work through the process.”

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Asked what specifically the White House has done about Manchin, Bedingfield said, “We have done a lot of outreach.”

“I assure you there is a lot of conversation between not only Senator Manchin’s office and the White House but members all across the Hill,” she said.

Washington Post

Texas Legislature advances voting restrictions

An expansive bill introducing a rash of new restrictions to voting passed a key committee in the Texas Legislature on Thursday, clearing the way for a full House vote in the coming weeks.

The bill, which passed by party-line vote, would make it a felony for a local election official to proactively mail absentee ballot applications and grants more authority and autonomy to partisan poll watchers. It also significantly expands the criminal punishment for voting-related offenses, adds new requirements and threats of criminal prosecution for those who provide assistance to voters, and prohibits local election officials from making changes without authorization from the state.

The Texas bill is part of a broad push by Republican legislators across the country to impose new voting restrictions in the aftermath of former president Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in November. Late last month, Georgia passed a sweeping bill that imposed new limits on voting access and expanded the legislature’s authority over state elections.

Texas is already home to some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country, and the Texas Legislature has dedicated part of its spring session to working toward another round of new laws limiting access to voting in the state.

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Though Trump carried Texas by more than 630,000 votes in November, Republican lawmakers have cited the former president’s false claims of fraud in the 2020 election as a reason for their effort, claiming the new bills are intended to restore confidence in elections.

New York Times

DA collects records linked to Trump Organization executive

NEW YORK — Investigators from the Manhattan district attorney’s office, acting on a grand jury subpoena, took possession of financial records Thursday morning from the apartment of Jennifer Weisselberg, the former daughter-in-law of a top Trump Organization officer.

Jennifer Weisselberg was married to Barry Weisselberg — the son of Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg — from 2004 to 2018. She has previously said that she had seven boxes of financial records from both her ex-husband and his father, some of which were obtained through divorce litigation. On Thursday, she loaded three boxes and a laptop computer onto a valet cart and wheeled them from her building to a black Jeep outside.

The move by District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. appears to be the latest sign that Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s highest-ranking corporate officer who is not a member of the Trump family, is a key focus of the ongoing criminal probe into former president Donald Trump’s financial dealings.

Washington Post