The embarrassing Republican arguments for saving AFFH

Last week, 16 Republican Senators blocked Senator Mike Lee’s amendment to defund AFFH, the Obama administration regulation through which the left seeks to force high-density housing on unwilling cities and towns and to let federal bureaucrats decide the racial, ethnic, and income balance of local communities.

What arguments did these Republicand advance against defunding this radical left-wing scheme? Did they actually defend AFFH on the merits?

Stanley Kurtz has examined the floor debates. He concludes that Republican Senators did defend AFFH, though without demonstrating an understanding of the regulation.

Kurtz cites the embarrassing remarks of Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia:

In defending AFFH from the Lee defund, Isakson spent the bulk of his time talking about the work of Thomas Cousins, a developer whose charitable foundation sparked a dramatic turnaround in an inner-city neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1990s, with the aid of grants from HUD.

Isakson’s argument is idiotic on its face. The question surrounding AFFH isn’t whether HUD grants sometimes produce good results. The question is whether local governments should have to give control over key housing decisions to HUD in order to obtain such grants.

Counsins’ approach to urban development can be implemented without AFFH. In fact, it was.

Taking the analysis one step further, Kurtz argues that AFFH may actually undercut projects like the one praised by Isakson:

[Cousins’] purpose built communities approach to urban revitalization targets specific inner-city neighborhoods for across-the-board improvements in housing, education, recreation, and the like. The strategy works by attracting middle-income families and businesses to re-developed areas, not by using government blackmail to force high-density low income housing developments onto suburbs and towns that don’t want them.

Even left-leaning housing advocates remain deeply split over AFFH, precisely because many of them believe that HUD’s strategy of forced dispersal will undercut community development initiatives like the one held up as a model by Sen. Isakson.

Kerry Picket of the Daily Caller tried to engage Isakson on the true implications of AFFH. She asked him about the experiences of Westchester County. Isakson replied, “You can find a reason not to do or to do anything,”

This clownish response is undercut by Isakson’s failure to find a coherent reason to “do” AFFH.

What about Susan Collins, sponsor of the bogus AFFH Amendment that Republicans Senators will use as cover for green-lighting AFFH? What were her arguments against the Lee Amendment?

Kurtz reports:

In her floor remarks, Sen. Collins’ quickly embraced Isakson’s not particularly relevant discussion of Atlanta’s purpose built communities as the supposedly perfect illustration of what AFFH is trying to promote. She then went on to parrot HUD’s AFFH talking points by claiming that this sweepingly transformative regulation is nothing but a response to a report from the General Accounting Office (GAO) which suggested that HUD more clearly define what would be expected of its grant recipients.

Yes, there was a GAO report, but it’s absurd to pretend that a sweeping regulation effectively negating America’s long tradition of local government and pushing the country toward a regionalist system in its place is explained by that report. The real inspiration for AFFH is the “regionalist” movement created by President Obama’s radical community organizing buddies.

Clearly, HUD could have been more clear about what it expects from grant recipients without telling them that it expects them, in effect, to achieve the kind of racial, ethnic, and income balance of local communities contemplated by AFFH.

Kurtz contrasts the pathetic remarks of Isakson and Collins to the arguments advanced by Sen. Lee and Sen. Richard Shelby. Lee explained the real intentions of AFFH, its actual legislative history, and the precursors of its operation in Chicago and in Dubuque.

Shelby showed that the Collins Amendment, which pretends to restrict federal overreach, does no such thing. He pointed out that Collins herself admitted that her amendment would prohibit HUD from doing something she believes it would never do.

Here, again, is the list of the 16 Senators who effectively signed off on the most radical agenda item of President Obama’s second term:

Lamar Alexander
Kelly Ayotte
Roy Blunt
Richard Burr
Dan Coats
Thad Cochran
Susan Collins
Lindsey Graham
Orrin Hatch
John Hoeven
Johnny Isakson
Mark Kirk
John McCain
Lisa Murkowski
Rob Portman
Thom Tillis