Appropriations Update: House Looks to Pass Funding Bills Before August Recess

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the House of Representatives will vote next week and the week after on bills to fund the government for Fiscal Year 2023. The House Rules Committee is set to meet on Monday, July 18 to consider the rules of debate for several spending bills, including for the Department of Energy. As mentioned in last week’s Washington Insights and Highlights Newsletter, the House Appropriations Committee passed legislation that would fund the Department of Energy’s Office of Science at $8 billion. While this is an increase of $525 million over the FY 2022 enacted funding level, it is below the amount that CGS and the broader higher education and scientific communities requested for the Office of Science.

The Senate has yet to begin work on appropriations for FY 2023. According to media reports, Senate Appropriations Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) will introduce all 12 spending bills at the end of July before the August recess.

Budget Reconciliation Back on the Table

After talks in the Senate stalled in December 2021 regarding the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act, it seemed any chance of passage in 2022 was slim at best. Yet there is now optimism in the Senate regarding a vote on a slimmed down version of budget reconciliation before the August recess. The House-passed Build Back Better Act included many provisions beneficial to graduate education, including $40 billion for higher education and workforce training programs. As well as expanding the research capacity at U.S. colleges and universities.

If the Senate were to pass a version of the Build Back Better Act, any chance of completing Joint House-Senate Conference Committee negotiations on the Bipartisan Innovation Act would get slimmer. As mentioned in previous Washington Insights & Highlights Newsletters, the conference committee met in May to begin negotiations on the Senate-passed USICA bill and the House-passed America COMPETES bill. Both bills would authorize funding for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and provide subsidies to the semiconductor industry to restart domestic production of semiconductor chips. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and senate Republicans have decided to hold-up any movement on the Bipartisan Innovation Act if Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) moves the Build Back Better Act.

GRAD Caucus Launch Event

On July 13, a bipartisan group of Members of Congress launched the Graduate Research and Development (GRAD) Caucus. The new caucus is co-chaired by Representatives Mike Doyle (D-PA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Stephanie Bice (R-OK). According to their website, “Graduate researchers’ impact on our collective understanding of the world and contribution to strengthening our nation’s economy is often overlooked and understated despite the fact that behind every major breakthrough is a current or former graduate researcher. For this reason, it is imperative that graduate student researchers have a congressional caucus that represents their interests.”

The GRAD Caucus is actively looking for more Members of Congress to join the caucus, so please contact members of your House delegation and encourage them to join.

American Rescue Plan Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

On July 13, the U.S. Department of Education announced the final award of $198 million in American Rescue Plan Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF). According to the department’s press release, the bulk of funds will be directed to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), community colleges, rural institutions, and institutions serving large populations of low-income students. Institutions are also required to distribute half of all grant funds directly to students – meeting needs such as housing, tuition support, addressing food insecurity, and other basic needs. The press release also includes a state breakdown in funds. The Office of Postsecondary Education will post the full list of awarded institutions on the SSARP website soon.

NSF CyberCorps Program Rulemaking

The National Science Foundation recently released a federal register notice regarding the Cyber Scholarship-for-Service Program. The program provides funds to institutions of higher education that award scholarships to students who agree to work after graduation for a federal, state, local, or tribal government organization in a position related to cybersecurity for a period equal to the duration of the scholarship. The proposed rulemaking seeks to change the standards for how a scholarship would be repaid if a recipient fails to meet the program requirements. NSF proposes that the conversion of the scholarship to a Direct Unsubsidized Loan will be done by NSF in collaboration with the Department of Education rather than by an academic institution.

Senate Hearing on Student Veterans Legislation

On July 13, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on pending legislation impacting veterans. During the hearing, committee members discussed the unintended consequences of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) recent 85-15 policy reset. The Ensuring the Best Schools for Veterans Act clarifies the 35 percent exemption to the 85-15 rule and ensures that veterans can continue to enroll in quality programs of their choosing. The American Council on Education provided testimony on the legislation, stating “By clarifying the 35 percent exemption, S. 4458 would undo the negative impacts of VA’s recent policy change on institutions with low total veteran populations and the veterans they serve. It will also ensure that veterans who attend these institutions will be able to enroll in their program of choice. For many institutions, registration for the fall term begins in August. We appreciate that S. 4458 would become effective upon enactment and hope that the legislation might be cleared before the August recess. This would help eliminate any disruptions for student veterans this fall. Without this critical fix, institutions will be forced to deny veterans from enrolling in certain programs, and in some cases, may have to turn them away entirely.” CGS recently signed on to a letter supporting the assurance that veterans can continue to enroll in quality programs of their choosing on our campuses.