NAICU Washington Update

Congress Starts Appropriations Process

June 17, 2021

The House passed a resolution deeming the discretionary spending total for FY 2022 to be $1.5 trillion, the same amount as President Biden’s budget request for annual spending this year. A joint congressional budget resolution is usually the first step in the budget and appropriations process, but because of the need for pandemic relief and recovery legislation earlier this year, the budget process is off to a slow start. 

In the absence of a joint budget resolution between the two chambers of Congress, which the president does not sign, this “deeming resolution” allows the House to begin the annual appropriations process to avoid falling further behind schedule.  Fiscal Year 2022 begins on October 1, 2021.  

In addition to deeming the spending total, the House Appropriations Committee announced the schedule for mark ups of all 12 subcommittee bills over the next two months.  The Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Educations Appropriations is scheduled to write its bill on July 12. This is the bill that funds all education programs, including federal student aid, along with the National Institutes of Health and workforce development programs, among others of interest to private, nonprofit colleges and universities. 

Before subcommittees write their bills, Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) must divvy up the total spending amount to balance defense and non-defense interests.  President Biden’s budget proposes $753 billion for the defense category (a 1.6% increase) and $770 billion for the non-defense category (a 16.5% increase). After years of calling for parity between the two categories, it will be interesting to see if Rep. DeLauro maintains this spilt, or proposes alternative allocations. 

NAICU supports the highest allocation possible for the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee so that substantial increases can be provided for the federal student aid programs, particularly investments towards doubling the Pell Grant to $13,000. In addition to the student aid funding request letter sent in March, NAICU has also signed on to recent letters with labor, education and health groups requesting an increased allocation for the subcommittee, and with the higher education community on funding priorities across multiple agencies.   

Meanwhile in the Senate, the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee heard from Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a hearing addressing the FY 2022 budget request for the agency where he said “education is a fundamental right for all students.”  During his statement and in responding to questions, Secretary Cardona also highlighted President Biden’s request to provide significant increases for the Pell Grant program, institutions that serve low-income students, student support services, and the Office of Civil Rights.  

The subcommittee leadership, Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Roy Blunt (R-MO) praised the proposal for increasing the Pell Grant maximum, as did many other subcommittee members on both sides of the aisle, reinforcing the bipartisan support the program has historically received. 

Sen. Blunt challenged the Secretary about the Department’s proposal to provide free community college, saying he is more receptive to increasing Pell because it allows a student to use the grant at the college or university that best suits their needs, whether the institution is public or private. He also commented that he supports the community college system in Missouri, and those across the country, but doesn’t understand why the sector is being singled out when all sectors of higher education serve low-income students. He noted that Title IV student aid and GI Bill benefits are available to students who attend accredited institutions, and that the proposal should not pit public against private colleges. Secretary Cardona responded simply that he looks forward to working with the senator for a path to provide more access to college. 

MORE News from NAICU