Issue in Focus
Jan 13 2017
“Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won.” These were the infamous words President Obama used to scold congressional Republicans just three days after his inauguration in 2009, foreshadowing how he would approach policymaking for the next eight years.
Rather than listening to and trying to work with Republicans, President Obama governed through brute force – with his “pen and phone” more often than with the consent of Congress – guided by the dictates of his progressive ideology rather than the interests of the American people. In virtually every policy area – from health care and immigration to the deployment of American troops and the accession to new international treaties – President Obama ignored those who dared to dissent from his agenda and used whatever means necessary to accomplish his goals.
The result is a precarious legacy burdened by a host of deeply unpopular and highly controversial policies, many of which can be repealed, replaced, rolled back, and otherwise reformed by the new Republican majorities in Congress. But Republicans should take care to avoid adopting the same high-handed, condescending governing style exhibited by President Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress.
Instead of ignoring the concerns and preferences of the American people – and their elected officials at the state and local level– we should listen to and learn from them. Rather than forcing diverse communities to abide by inflexible, burdensome rules and regulations devised by federal bureaucrats in Washington, we should empower local decision-makers to find solutions that address the unique needs of their families, neighborhoods, and businesses.
One of the areas of federal policy most in need of local empowerment is housing.
For instance, in 2015 the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, which requires cities and towns across the country to audit their local housing policies. If any aspect of a community’s housing and demographic patterns fails to meet HUD’s expansive definition of “fair housing” under AFFH, the local government must submit a plan to reorganize the community’s housing practices according to the preferences and priorities of HUD’s bureaucrats. Failure to comply will result in HUD withholding Community Development Block Grants, federal grant money that local officials have traditionally been free to use as they see fit.
Proponents of AFFH claim the rule establishes a collaborative process, with local government officials in the driver’s seat while the bureaucrats at HUD merely provide “support” and “guidance.” But the track record of AFFH proves the opposite.
Many local housing officials from across the country, including in Utah, have told the same story: the costs of complying with AFFH stretch their already-thin resources, add hundreds of hours of bureaucratic paperwork to their workloads, and eliminate their autonomy to determine the best ways to provide adequate low-cost housing to their community.
To provide some measure of relief to local Public Housing Authorities, a group of Republicans in Congress has supported legislation to restrict HUD from using federal funds to implement the AFFH rule. The Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act is the latest iteration of this legislation, which I joined Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) to introduce this week.
For the past 18 months, with President Obama holding the executive veto pen and unwilling to believe that his policies are unpopular, there was very little chance this bill would be signed into law. But on January 20, when President-elect Trump is sworn into office, that will change, and I will do everything in my power to ensure its swift passage. After all, elections have consequences.