NAICU Washington Update

Senate Appropriators Maintain Student Aid Funding

July 18, 2007

Working with an allocation of $2 billion less than the House education subcommittee, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s spending bill does no more than maintain funding for the student aid programs, with increases for TRIO and GEAR UP.  The FY 2008 spending bill for the departments of education, health and labor, written on June 21, rejects the president's cuts to SEOG and LEAP, and provides an additional $826 million to maintain a Pell Grant maximum of $4,310.

During the mark-up, Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) noted that appropriators are working with the members of the HELP Committee – on which Harkin also sits – to increase the Pell Grant to $4,600 with mandatory dollars.  (See related article on Senate reconciliation, above.)

The bipartisan bill is a "lean, tight bill," said Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), and makes health funding a top priority, with education right behind.  The bill increases Title I funding for low-income school districts by over $1 billion, and increases special education by almost $500 million.

The goal at the start of the 110th Congress was to have all appropriations bills completed by the beginning of the FY 2008 fiscal year, October 1.  However, that target date will most likely now slip.  The education and health funding bill already carries an unofficial veto threat from the president because both chambers spend almost $10 billion more than the administration's request.  The Senate bill also carries language in support of stem cell research opposed by the administration.

The House will consider its bill in full committee after the July 4 recess, with quick floor consideration expected after that.  When the Senate bill reaches the floor will depend on and the status of the energy bill, but could also take place in July.  Once both chambers have passed their versions of the bill, the House and Senate can start to work out their differences, and work toward veto-proof votes for final passage this fall.

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