NAICU Washington Update

House Appropriations Committee Increases Student Aid Funding, But No Year-Round Pell

July 13, 2016

The House Appropriations Committee approved funding increases for several critical student aid programs, yet did not reinstate Year-Round Pell, as it approved its version of the FY 2017 Labor-HHS-Education spending bill.

Specifically, the House bill provides for the scheduled increase in the Pell Grant maximum, to $5,935; increase TRIO by $60 million to $960 million; increases GEAR UP by $22 million to $344 million; and level funds for Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) and Federal Work Study (FWS).

While the Senate bill approved last month reinstated the Year-Round Pell provision, the House bill does not. During the subcommittee debate on the bill, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-FL) offered an amendment to reinstate the Year-Round Pell Grant provision, noting that the Senate was able to include it in a bipartisan bill. Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) agreed the provision is worthy of reinstatement, and is not a partisan issue, but said at this point in the process it would be considered “authorizing on an appropriations bill,” so he “reluctantly opposed.” Rep. Cole said he looks forward to working with Senate colleagues on this issue in conference.

Another difference from the Senate bill is that the House bill includes language barring executive agency action Members deem inappropriate. Notably, the bill prohibits the Department of Labor from implementing the newly issued overtime regulations. Other policy language prohibits the Department of Education from implementing regulations on state authorization, credit hour, gainful employment, and teacher preparation. Democrats offered amendments to strike the “poison pill riders,” which failed on party lines as Republicans noted “one person’s poison pill is another’s response to executive overreach.” None of these policy proposal prohibitions are likely to be enacted.

During debate on the bill, both parties criticized the funding allocation, which is lower than what was approved in the Senate, and pointed out the Senate’s ability to use budget gimmicks to fund programs, which violate House Rules. Members praised the $1.3 billion increase in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding; funding for addressing the opioid addiction epidemic; and funding for response to the Zika virus.

This is most likely the last action on the stand-alone Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill. Congress will adjourn July 15, for a seven-week break, allowing Members to attend their party conventions, and return to their home states for the summer work period.

While work has been done on all 12 spending bills, none of them have been signed into law. With only 19 legislative days in September (before the beginning of Fiscal Year 2017 on October 1), Congress is expected to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open. Pressures outside the appropriations process, such as votes on gun violence measures, a Zika virus response, and platforms in the presidential race, will help determine whether a CR runs until right after the November elections, or into March 2017, for a new Congress and new president to negotiate a final spending bill.

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