NAICU Washington Update

House Postpones Action on Education Appropriations

July 18, 2007

The House Appropriations Committee has postponed action on the FY 2008 education appropriations bill until after the July 4th recess. The delay, approved on June 13, was triggered by disagreements between Democrats and Republicans over how earmarks would be offered, with Republicans pressuring to include earmarks in the bill now, rather than waiting  until conference committee.

Spurred by the week-long argument on the House floor over earmarks that were left out of the Homeland Security spending bill, appropriations committee members and staff will now spend the next few weeks reviewing the thousands of earmark requests that are in the education bill, before convening the week of July 9.

While there is bipartisan support in Congress for the education spending bill, the Bush administration has threatened to veto the legislation if it exceeds the president’s spending request.  Bush has the backing of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a group of conservative House members. The RSC has collected 147 signatures on a letter that pledges to sustain a veto of any spending bill that exceeds the president's request. That's two more than the 145 votes needed to affirm a veto.    

The price tag on the education appropriations bill is $10 billion more than the president’s request.  However, the inclusion of earmarks in the remaining appropriations bills may ultimately determine how members vote.

Of special interest to colleges was a rider added to the bill that would limit the Secretary of Education’s ability to issue new regulations on accreditation. (See WIR - 6/12/07, 5/8/07, 4/4/07, 2/28/07.) Appropriations chairman David Obey (D-WI) is using the bill to signal to Education Secretary Margaret Spellings that Congress is not happy with her efforts to circumvent its authority in this area.

In the Senate, the education appropriations subcommittee is scheduled to write its bill June 19, and the full Senate appropriations committee is set to consider it on June 21. The Senate subcommittee is working with $2 billion less than the House allocation, and the Senate’s funding priorities will look different. This could make a conference agreement over the summer more difficult than initially anticipated.

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