NAICU Washington Update

House Passes Two-Track Plan for Infrastructure and Reconciliation

August 26, 2021

The House of Representatives returned this week during its August recess for a party-line vote in favor of S. Con. Res. 14, a procedural rule that deems the Senate version of the FY 2022 budget resolution passed and schedules consideration of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on or before September 27.

With passage of the budget resolution, the House and Senate authorizing committees can now begin work on legislation to implement the reconciliation instructions they received as part of the budget plan. This is the step in the process when committees will decide how much funding to provide for higher education priorities, such as Pell Grant increases, free community college, new completion grants, or funding increases for HBCUs and MSIs. NAICU’s priority is to double the Pell Grant maximum award to $13,000.

Congressional committees have until September 15 to write this legislation. The House Committee on Education and Labor is instructed to spend $779.5 billion over 10 years, and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is instructed to spend $726 billion over 10 years. While the two committees cover the same education areas, from early childhood through higher education, they have slightly different jurisdictions over labor and health policy, thus the funding amounts are slightly different.

President Joe Biden’s education priorities, which include a $1,875 increase in the Pell Grant maximum award this year, add up to roughly $845 billion over 10 years, so not all priorities will make it to the final bill.

The two-track plan for infrastructure and reconciliation is indicative of the pressure being put on the Democratic leadership by moderate members of the party, who want the infrastructure bill enacted quickly, and the progressive wing of the party, whose priority is to enact the larger social programs investment.

Nine moderate Democrats held out their support for the $3.5 trillion budget resolution framework until a date was chosen for voting on the physical infrastructure investments. Some moderate members are also concerned about the $3.5 trillion total sticker price of the budget plan. Packaging the “deeming” of the budget resolution into their procedural vote allowed those concerned members to win a specific date for a vote on infrastructure, and those concerned about the budget to avoid a standalone vote on a massive new spending plan.

The parameters of the budget plan were negotiated earlier this month between the White House and Democratic Senators to ensure 50 votes for passage in the Senate. The funding total could shrink before final passage later this fall because of opposition to more deficit spending.

NAICU will continue to push for doubling the Pell Grant to $13,000 in the budget vehicle that moves through Congress.