In Congress, Expect More of the Same


“I don’t think in his heart of hearts that Obama believes it is possible to get things done with a Republican Congress,” said John Heilemann, left, during a talk about the midterm election alongside Mark Halperin during the REALTORS® Conference & Expo.

Don’t expect the new Congress of the next two years to get anything done, said Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, longtime political reporters and co-authors of Double Down: Game Change 2012, at Saturday’s “2014 Election Results: What They Mean for R.E.” session.

“There used to be liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats,” Heilemann said. “But in Congress today, Republicans are more conservative and Democrats more liberal than at any other point in our history.”

Halperin made a bet that Congress won’t move on the mortgage interest deduction in the next two years unless it’s bundled into a larger legislative package—but even that is unlikely to go anywhere. Both Halperin and Heilemann said they don’t see Congress touching tax reform anytime soon, primarily because President Barack Obama and soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have made it clear they don’t intend to bow to each other’s agendas.

NAR has been vocal about protecting incentives for home owners in any tax reform measure, but it looks as though that won’t be on the table for a while, Halperin said. He is confident, though, that the federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which creates the federal backstop that encourages private insurers to make terrorism insurance available and affordable for commercial properties, would be reauthorized before its expiration on Dec. 31. NAR is a strong proponent of the program, which is vital to commercial real estate and development throughout the country.

The speakers didn’t address the chances of tax measures NAR supports getting taken up in the lame-duck session, which is the brief period before the new Congress assembles and the outgoing Congress adjourns in which lawmakers can take up measures. NAR supports reauthorization of mortgage debt cancellation relief as soon as possible so owners don’t have to take a tax hit on forgiven debt when they sell their house in a short sale.

Heilemann said the road to 2016 looks more certain for Democrats than Republicans, with Hillary Clinton all but certain to become the Dems’ presidential candidate if she decides to run.

“There’s an old saying: Only damn fools stand in front of oncoming trains,” he said. “And she’s an oncoming train.”

Republicans, however, have no clear frontrunner for the 2016 presidential election, he said, and it appears the party could face a quagmire over who to choose for the race. That puts them at an initial disadvantage, Heilemann added, but Clinton could face a larger issue of crafting her message to a voter base that has become disillusioned with Obama.

Graham Wood

Graham Wood is a senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at

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  1. Debra

    Hopefully the NAR will start listening to its members and not liberal press about what we need to do. Hopefully the American people will begin to hold all elected officials accountable to do the right thing to get this country back on track. REALTORS do have a voice and we need to use it to send the right message loud and clear