Budget Reconciliation: Build Back Better Act of 2021 (H.R. 5376)

After months of negotiations amongst the House of Representatives, the Senate, and White House, the Build Back Better Act of 2021 (H.R. 5376) has achieved a legislative milestone. The $1.9 trillion budget reconciliation package passed the House by a vote of 220-213. This vote came after the release of Congressional Budget Office’s cost estimate for the bill. The cost estimate for the education and labor provisions of Build Back Better can be found here. The budget reconciliation package includes provisions to expand federal student aid eligibility for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients and major investments in research capacity building at Minority Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) stated in a press release about the legislation, “The Congressional Budget Office’s estimate confirms two important facts about the Education and Labor Committee’s provisions in the Build Back Better Act. First, it shows that the Build Back Better Act makes historic investments in lowering costs for working families and helping Americans secure good-paying jobs. This proposal will make childcare affordable for families, secure universal preschool, help more students access healthy school meals, lower the cost of life-saving prescription drugs, and expand opportunities by investing in higher education and high-quality job training programs.”

The budget reconciliation package now moves to the Senate where it faces several challenges, including the cost of the package.

FY2022 Appropriations: Another Continuing Resolution Is Possible

In a Dear Colleague Letter to House Appropriations Committee Members, Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) suggested extending the short-term continuing resolution beyond the December 3 deadline. As reported in previous Washington Insights & Highlights newsletters, President Biden signed into law a continuing resolution that would fund the federal government until December 3. The continuing resolution is set to expire in a few weeks, and Congress has yet to pass and enact fiscal year 2022 appropriations legislation. Thus, Chairwoman DeLauro is recommending the passage of another short-term continuing resolution that does not extend beyond the end of the month.
According to a report from the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration and New American Economy, there are over 28,000 DACA-eligible students pursuing graduate and professional degrees.

Joint Education and Labor Subcommittee Hearing on Implementation of COVID-19 Education Funds

On November 17, two House Education and Labor subcommittees held a joint hearing on the implementation of COVID-19 education funds. Members of the Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee and the Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee heard testimony from Cindy Marten, deputy secretary at the Department of Education and James Kvaal, undersecretary for the Department of Education. In his testimony before the subcommittees, Undersecretary Kvaal underscored the importance of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), “HEERF has been a lifeline for students facing economic losses due to the pandemic, including many who were homeless or did not have enough to eat, and helping them stay enrolled in college. It aided colleges in meeting urgent public health needs and avoiding mass layoffs of faculty and staff. Some public and private non-profit colleges say HEERF supported their continued survival.”

U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260)

After negotiation, the Senate is making progress on the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Senate voted to start debate on the NDAA after Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reached agreement on the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA). The aim of the USICA is to strengthen U.S. competitiveness by subsidizing the U.S. semiconductor manufacturers and continuing to provide robust federal funding for scientific research. Instead of including the USICA in the NDAA, the bill will move to a House-Senate conference committee for further consideration. More information about House and Senate negotiations on R&D legislation can be found in the Roll Call newspaper, “House, Senate will go to conference on R&D proposals.”

NIH Comment Request on Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT) Extramural Grantee Data

On November 16, the National Institutes of Health issued a notice requesting comments on the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT) Extramural Grantee Data. NIH is requesting public comments  to assist in making “informed management decisions about research programs and to demonstrate outputs, outcomes and impacts of research programs. NIEHS will collect, analyze and report on data from extramural grantees who are currently receiving funding or who have received funding in the past. Information gained from this primary data collection will be used in conjunction with data from grantee progress reports and presentations at grantee meetings to inform internal programs and new funding initiatives.” All written comments must be submitted within 30 days of the publication on the federal register notice.