House Committees Entertain COVID-19 Relief Bill

Last week, the House of Representatives and the Senate agreed to budget reconciliation rules that will allow impending COVID-19 relief spending to be passed via simple majority vote in both chambers. This week, committees in the House began the task of marking up and approving their respective shares of a comprehensive COVID-19 relief bill initially proposed by President Biden as the American Rescue Plan. This $1.9 trillion package includes critical dollars to help the U.S. economy recover and facilitate vaccine distribution.

Of interest to graduate education and research, the House Education and Labor committee approved their portion of the legislation, which included $35 billion for higher education. Committee chairman Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) offered an additional $5 billion, to which the committee agreed along a party line vote of 27-21. CGS and its higher education community colleagues have consistently requested at least $97 billion in relief for students and institutions, most recently sending a letter to Chairman Scott and Ranking Member Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) demonstrating a growing need now upwards of $120 billion. A provision to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025 was among the more contentious provisions included in the committee’s share of the proposal.

The House Ways and Means committee also passed their share of the package, which would offer stimulus checks of up to $1,400 per individual, child tax credits, and extended unemployment benefits through August 2021. Although progress is being steadily made in the House chamber, the legislation still needs to be considered by the Senate and bipartisan negotiations.

CGS Applauds the Reintroduction of the RISE Act

On February 9, CGS sent letters to House and Senate lawmakers applauding the reintroduction of the bipartisan Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act (H.R.896/S.289). The RISE Act would authorize approximately $25 billion in emergency relief appropriations for federal science agencies during fiscal year 2021 and is available for up to two years across ten departments and agencies. The legislation provides flexibilities for graduate students and postdocs by extending training programs and funding research that has been disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic. CGS previously endorsed the legislation in the 116th Congress and continues to advocate for the relief funding during the current COVID-19 relief bill negotiations.

New CGS Member Resource: Database of Federally Funded Fellowships/Traineeships

CGS Public Policy and Government Affairs has developed a searchable database of federally-funded fellowships, traineeships, and other opportunities for graduate students and postdocs. This member resource allows users to search by federal department/agency, field of study, and compensation. Members are encouraged to use this resource as a way to search for these opportunities and share them with their students and other stakeholders. Click here to access the search table and database information. If you have any questions, please contact Harper Garfinkle (

Senate HELP Committee Advances Cardona Nomination; Biden Announces More Dept. of Ed Officials

On February 11, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee advanced the nomination of Miguel Cardona for secretary of education with a bipartisan vote of 17-5. In the same meeting, the Committee also advanced the nomination of Marty Walsh for labor secretary. On February 3, Cardona testified before the Committee, details of which are available in a previous edition of Washington Insights & Highlights. In the coming days, the full Senate is expected to vote and confirm both nominations.


Cardona’s nomination advances as the Biden administration announces a second group of political appointees for the Department of Education. On February 3, President Biden selected thirteen appointees to fill roles in the Office of Postsecondary Education; Office of the Under Secretary; Office for Civil Rights; Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development; among others. The full list is available here. On January 21, President Biden announced the first group of senior officials to lead the Department of Education.


So far, the Senate has confirmed seven of President Biden’s Cabinet members, with twenty-three to go. In addition to Cardona and Walsh’s nominations, Marcia Fudge’s nomination for secretary of housing and urban development; Jennifer Granholm’s nomination for secretary of energy; Gina Raimondo’s nomination for secretary of commerce; Celia Rouse’s nomination for chair of the Council of Economic Advisors; Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s nomination for ambassador to the United Nations; and Tom Vilsack’s nomination for secretary of agriculture have advanced and are headed to the Senate floor for a confirmation vote.

Senators Reintroduce Bipartisan Dream Act

On February 4, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) reintroduced the Dream Act (S.264), which would provide a path to citizenship for some individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children. First introduced in 2001, the Dream Act would grant lawful permanent residence and eventually U.S. citizenship if individuals meet certain criteria, including graduating from high school or earning a GED; pursuing higher education, working, or serving in the military; and passing background checks.


The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program, created during the Obama administration in 2012, was established to achieve similar outcomes to the Dream Act, including deportation relief and permits for work and education but does not provide a path to citizenship. In his January 20 executive order, President Biden called on Congress to enact legislation that provides a path to citizenship for those with DACA status in addition to directing his administration to “preserve and fortify” the DACA program. DACA faced numerous legal challenges during the Trump administration, and its legality is currently being questioned again by nine states in a Texas federal court.


According to a recent report released by the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration and the New American Economy, more than 450,000 undocumented students are enrolled in higher education programs, and 216,000 of these individuals are eligible for DACA. Of these DACA-eligible students, 13 percent are pursuing graduate education and professional degrees. However, these students are likely to face more significant barriers than their peers, including the inability to receive federal financial aid. Despite these challenges, students with DACA status and DACA-eligible students are still pursuing higher levels of education and producing vital research (CGS policy brief: DACA and Graduate Education). CGS continues to advocate for a legislative solution that provides a path to citizenship, which would assist DACA-eligible students in pursuing graduate education.

Apply Now: Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship

On February 4, the Department of Education posted application information for the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) Fellowship. DDRA provides opportunities for doctoral candidates to engage in full-time dissertation research abroad in modern foreign languages and area studies for periods of six to twelve months. Fellows conduct research that can be used towards their dissertations and enhance language skills and cultural engagement. Institutions of higher education are eligible to apply for grants to fund individual doctoral students; students then submit individual applications to their institutions. Interested parties are encouraged to watch the pre-recorded pre-application webinar, covering DDRA program requirements, selection criteria, and frequently asked questions. On March 2 at 2:00pm EST, the Department will host a live webinar to answer specific applicant questions; information to access the meeting will be posted here, along with application instructions. Applications are due April 5, 2021.