Update on House FY 2022 Budget Reconciliation Process and Summary of Bills
Last week, House committees finished bill mark-ups for legislation that combines to form Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill. The path to get the package over the finish line in the House remains unclear as progressive and moderate Democrats debate over the approach and scope. Additionally, Democratic senators, most notably Senators Manchin (D-WV) and Sinema (D-AZ) have indicated they will not support a measure of such size.
House Democrats had to shift gears this week as the end of the fiscal year approaches, focusing instead on passing a continuing resolution to fund the federal government beyond the end of the month. Democrats released a stopgap bill to extend government funding and increase the debt ceiling, but the measure currently lacks the necessary support in the Senate to pass.
APLU has prepared a comprehensive analysis of the budget reconciliation committee legislation of most significant interest to public research universities. We will continue to update the analysis as Congress works through the legislative process.
APLU and Partner Organizations Urge Support and Improvements in College Completion Fund
This week, APLU joined with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) Association in a letter to the Senate HELP Committee and House Education and Labor Committee expressing shared support for the inclusion of a new $9 billion Retention and Completion Grant program in the House budget reconciliation bill. The letter requested that funding to be maintained for this important program and urged consideration of a critical improvement in the design of the program as the legislative process moves forward.
As currently written, only states that choose to participate in the free community college program would be eligible to participate in the program. The letter calls on Congress to decouple the programs, noting that students who live in states that choose not to participate in the free community college program should not be cut off from the potential to benefit from federal investments in college completion.
Senate Parliamentarian Rules Against Democrats on Some Immigration Provisions in Reconciliation
The Senate Parliamentarian ruled against Democrats on the inclusion of immigration provisions in the budget reconciliation package providing green card eligibility to Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status recipients, and others.
The inclusion of the legalization provisions presented to the Senate Parliamentarian, the first section of the language marked up in the House Judiciary Committee, violated the first two tests of the Budget Act points of order (aka the “Byrd Rule”). The Senate Parliamentarian determined that the Democrats’ proposal is “by any standard a broad, new immigration policy” and that the policy change “substantially outweighs the budgetary impact of that change.”
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer released a statement saying that Senate Democrats will return to the Parliamentarian with additional policy options and avenues, which was echoed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL). In a tweet, Chairman Durbin said, “Senate Democrats have prepared an alternative proposal for the Parliamentarian’s consideration in the coming days.”
Kvaal Confirmed as Under Secretary of Education
The Senate confirmed James Kvaal as the next undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education. The Senate voted 58-37 in favor Kvaal’s nomination. The undersecretary will oversee policies and programs related to postsecondary education, federal student aid, and vocational and adult education.
APLU President Peter McPherson issued a statement on the Senate confirmation of Undersecretary Kvaal and privately congratulated him.
White House Announces Executive Orders on Vaccine Mandate
Earlier this month, President Biden announced a plan to substantially increase the number of vaccinated Americans through federal mandates provided in executive orders (EO). The EO relative to federal contractors and new/renewal contracts will have implications for some public universities. Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing an emergency temporary standard (ETS) that would obligate employers with more than 100 employees to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested weekly for COVID-19.
As described by the Congressional Research Service and CUPA-HR, the ETS may not apply to state entities except in the cases in which states have plans approved by OSHA. Per CRS, 21 states and Puerto Rico presently have OSHA-approved state plans that cover all employers in the state, including state and local government entities. Five states and the U.S. Virgin Islands have state plans that cover only state and local government employers. OSHA estimates that state plans cover approximately 40 percent of workers in the United States. APLU expects to learn more as the Biden administration works on guidance. State litigation challenging the mandates is also expected.
Biden Administration Releases First R&D Priorities Memo
The White House Office of Management and Budget and Office of Science of Technology Policy released its annual R&D priorities memo. The memo provides broad guidance to federal agencies as they draft their budget requests regarding science for FY2023. In addition to focusing on “critical and emerging” technology areas, the memo urges federal agencies to “prioritize R&D investments in programs with strong potential to advance equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically disadvantaged, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.” Notably, the priorities include pandemic preparedness, mitigation of climate change, protecting national security interests, and promoting diversity and equity in STEM education.