Senate Democrats Introduce FY 2023 Appropriations Bills

Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee released its fiscal year 2023 appropriations bills. The package includes $850 billion in defense spending and $653 billion in non-defense discretionary spending. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said of the bills in a statement, “These bills are an investment in the American people that promote affordable housing, help families put food on the table, support the education and care of our children and young people, combat climate change, improve health care access, and invest in our communities.  It is my hope that by releasing these bills — making clear what the priorities of Senate Democrats are — we can take a step closer toward reaching a bipartisan compromise after months of stalled negotiations.”

Higher education funding within the Department of Education received a proposed $553.6 million increase from FY 2022 enacted levels, but it is smaller than President Biden’s budget request and what the House Appropriations Committee passed last week. Senate Democrats propose nearly $48 billion for the National Institutes of Health, which is $3 billion more than FY 2022 enacted levels. As well as $10.3 billion for the National Science Foundation, $1.5 billion more than FY 2022. The Senate proposes an increase of $59 million for the Graduate Research Fellowship Program. For the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the Senate proposes $8.1 billion, with $20 million for the Computational Sciences Graduate Fellowship.

Thus far, the House of Representatives has passed 6 out of the 12 bills to fund the government for fiscal year 2023. After the August recess, they are expected to vote on the remaining six appropriations bills, including bills which fund the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and the National Science Foundation. Given time constraints, the House of Representatives and Senate are unlikely to come to final agreement on fiscal year 2023 appropriations before the mid-term elections.

CHIPS and Science Act Passes with Bipartisan Support

In an important gain for science, the House of Representatives and Senate have passed competitiveness legislation. Earlier this week, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill that would increase the amount of semiconductor chips manufactured in the country and authorize increased federal funding for scientific research. Immediately following Senate passage of the CHIPS and Science Act, the House of Representatives passed the bill. The bill now heads to President Biden’s desk for signature.

The CHIPS and Science Act authorizes $54 billion in grants for semiconductor manufacturing, as well as reauthorizing key federal research agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy. Specifically, the bill authorizes $81 billion for the National Science Foundation over the course of five years. This authorized funding level includes, $13 billion over five years for STEM education at NSF. The bill also authorizes $87 million over five years for the Computational Science Graduate fellowship at the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

In a statement, the Biden Administration said: “The Administration applauds these steps to strengthen our economic competitiveness by authorizing investment in our R&D capabilities and manufacturing base in a diverse set of U.S. regions and communities, particularly in states and communities that have historically not benefited from these investments.”

Several Members of Congress also remarked on the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act. “Today marks the beginning of a revitalized and stronger future for American innovation,” proclaimed Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). “The bipartisan passage the CHIPS and Science Act is not only a tremendous victory for our nation’s science, manufacturing, and technology enterprises—it is a victory for the American people.” Likewise, Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-WA) said, “This legislation is a major milestone, the largest single investment that we’ve seen in a long time in U.S. R&D. It is a great day for what might seem to many Americans as a very kind of ‘what does science and R&D really mean for me?’ Well investments today mean jobs for tomorrow.”

Biden Administration’s Priorities for FY 2024

The Biden Administration recently released a memorandum for the heads of executive departments and agencies regarding its research and development priorities for fiscal year 2024. The memo states, “Federal funding for research and development (R&D) is essential to maximize the benefits of science and technology that advance health, tackle the climate crisis, and bring prosperity, security, environmental quality, and justice for all Americans. In addition to supporting R&D, agencies should make use of research results to carry out their own missions and ensure that the results of Federally funded research are made widely available to the public to facilitate understanding, participation, and inclusive decision-making; to other scientists to promote the exchange of ideas that is key to the advancement of knowledge; and, to innovators and entrepreneurs in every region of the United States, who will translate the research into world-leading businesses employing American workers.”

The memo lists seven domains to focus on in research and development:

  • Preparing for and preventing pandemics
  • Reducing the death rate from cancer by half
  • Tackling climate change
  • Advancing national security and technological competitiveness
  • Innovating for equity
  • Cultivating an equitable STEM education, engagement, and workforce ecosystem
  • Promoting open science and community-engaged R&D

Language Resource Centers Program Grantee List Announced

A total of 16 universities were selected to receive funding for the Language Resource Centers program at the Department of Education. The program provides grants for establishing, strengthening, and operating centers that serve as resources for improving the nation’s capacity for teaching and learning foreign languages through teacher training, research, materials development, and dissemination projects. President Biden’s latest budget request proposed $2.7 million for the program as part of International Education and Foreign Language Studies, which has seen proposed increases in funding in the House and Senate appropriations bills.

Members of Congress Urge Biden to Extend Pause on Student Loan Payments

Earlier this week, one hundred Members of Congress sent a letter to President Biden to press for the extension on the pause of student loan payments. Without another extension, student loan borrowers will be expected to resume loan payments. The letter says, “For over two years, the Department has provided critical flexibility to millions of federal student loan borrowers by pausing payments, as many have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. This much needed pause has helped many borrowers to keep a roof over their heads, secure childcare, and purchase food, health care, and medicine during the course of a pandemic responsible for the deaths of more than one million people in the U.S.” The letter goes on to say, “Resuming student loan payments would force millions of borrowers to choose between paying their federal student loans or putting a roof over their heads, food on the table, or paying for childcare and health care—while costs continue to rise and while, yet another COVID-19 variant increases hospitalizations nationwide.”

The current pause on student loan payments will expire on August 31, 2022. In the meantime, student loan borrowers await the release of President Biden much-anticipated student loan forgiveness plan.

Update on Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program

Equal Justice Works and the PSLF Coalition will host a webinar on August 3 on Public Service Loan Forgiveness waiver for higher education employees. To register for the webinar, click here.

In October 2021, the Department of Education made a much anticipated and welcome announcement concerning the overhaul of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). The PSLF program was meant to provide debt relief to teachers, nurses, firefighters, military members, and other public service workers, by cancelling their loans after 10 years of service. Unfortunately, the program has been difficult to navigate and unwieldy for student borrowers. A limited PSLF waiver was announced that allows all payments by student borrowers to count towards PSLF regardless of loan program or payment plan. To receive this waiver, student borrowers must submit a PSLF form by October 31, 2022.