As the 112th Congress begins its deliberations in Washington, Republicans' stated agenda of cutting spending and reducing the nation's debt could have a significant impact on nonprofit organizations and the people they serve, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports.
Republicans, who gained the majority in the House of Representatives by virtue of the largest single-party turnover in six decades, are expected to take a hard line on spending, especially given pressure from small-government Tea Party voters who made their voices heard during the midterm elections in November. Although nonprofit advocates were working to educate new legislators about the scope of the work conducted by nonprofits and foundations even before the new Congress was gaveled into session, safety-net programs and initiatives that President Obama hoped to expand such as AmeriCorps, the Social Innovation Fund, and Promise Neighborhoods are unlikely to garner additional support.
The sector may also find itself the object of enhanced congressional scrutiny. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who is expected to chair the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Charles Boustany, Jr. (R-LA), who sits on the Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, were among those calling for the Government Accountability Office, the Justice Department, and the IRS to investigate the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in 2009 after videos surfaced that appeared to show ACORN workers allegedly advising a pair of conservative activists posing as sex industry workers how to conceal criminal activities and evade taxes. ACORN has since filed for bankruptcy.
At the same time, a number of leadership changes could work in nonprofits' favor. Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), who was instrumental in adding to the Pension Protection Act of 2006 a provision that would allow older people to make charitable donations from their individual retirement accounts without penalty, has taken over leadership of the House Ways and Means Committee. In addition, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who is known to be more sympathetic to national-service programs than other Republicans, is in line to assume Sen. Charles Grassley's role as ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.