NAICU Washington Update

Congress Avoids Shutdown

February 11, 2022

Congress is poised to pass a continuing resolution (CR) that will keep the government open through March 11, which will allow for the time needed to finalize the details of the FY 2022 spending bills. 

Appropriators announced Wednesday that they have agreed on a framework for a bipartisan deal, but they have not announced the exact top line budget amount or underlying programmatic funding levels. Earlier this week at NAICU’s Annual Meeting, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Ranking Member on the Senate Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations, predicted that an agreement would come in the next 10 days. The sticking points over the last five months have been the difference between the defense and domestic spending levels, and what policy riders to include. 

A key component of what’s at stake for higher education is a $400 increase in the Pell Grant maximum, which is included in both bills. Also important are the varying degrees of increases for the other student aid programs, the Strengthening Institutions Programs across all categories, the National Institutes of Health, and many other programs important to students and institutions. 

The timing of these decisions is critical for students and institutions.  Students’ financial aid awards for the fall need to be made available so families can plan expenses.  This is particularly true for first time students whose choice of college may rely on their final aid packets.  However, colleges cannot assemble those offers without knowing the final federal award levels.

Last fall, the House passed all of its spending bills, while the Senate released drafts without subcommittee consideration. In both chambers, Democrats were in charge of writing the bills. To pass funding legislation in the Senate, however, 60 votes are required, which means Democrats need Republican support for the final versions. Democratic and Republican appropriations leaders in the House and Senate have been working together in this final stage. Republicans want to increase the defense spending level to at least what was enacted in the National Defense Authorization Act in December, while Democrats want to maintain the higher domestic spending increases included in the House bills. At this point in the process, spending levels will not be announced until all the details are negotiated. 

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