From Your Lobbyist: Higher Ed Funding Update
August 28, 2018
Senate passes funding bill before government shutdown deadline, House needs to Act soon
For the first time in 11 years, the Senate, on August 24th, brought to the floor and passed its Labor-HHS-Education funding bill as part of a minibus that also included the defense spending bill––all before the government shutdown deadline of September 30th. The measure passed by a vote of 85-7 and if signed into law, would boost funding for the Department of Education by $541 million to $71.4 billion. The bill rejects many of the cuts proposed by the Trump Administration and would provide increases to several k-12 and higher education programs important to AYA, like raising the maximum Pell grant award annually by $100 (current max is $6095). Raising the award for Pell grants, which provide direct grants to students attending college, was not a unanimous decision for the Senate and an amendment from Senator Enzi (R-WY) that would have prohibited the automatic raise was defeated by a 68-24 vote. Senator Enzi said that the measure was aimed at promoting “fiscal discipline” and cited that it would cost $330 million in spending over 10 years. Federal grant programs that help first generation students, like GEAR Up and TRIO would remain flat funded in the bill while grants that provide aid for institutional development to minority serving institutions would increase across the board. Lastly, for the second year in a row, the Senate bill if passed would provide another $350 million to assist income-driven repayment plan participants who wrongfully believed that they were participating in an eligible PSLF loan program.
Now that the Senate has passed its LHHS-Ed/defense bill, there is increased pressure on the House to pass its funding bills before the government shutdown deadline of September 30th. The House now must choose between debating and passing the Senate’s higher spending LHHS-Ed package, which would move to the President’s desk once the House votes to approve; or debating and passing its own version of LHHS-Education funding, which would lead to a possibly contentious negotiation with the Senate on a final bill. Should the latter occur, it seems very likely that Congress would not complete its work before September 30th and would have to pass a temporary spending measure to keep the government open through the November election.