Congressional Recess Public Policy Update
An overview of Congressional activity during the summer months and what to expect in the fall.
Every year, Congress takes a month-long break from legislative action in August. Right before this break, Congress is typically bustling with activity as they try to wrap up legislative proposals and pass pending legislation. With a new administration, and a new majority in the Senate, this year is no different.
Given the scope of proposals Congress is considering, ACCT’s government relations team recently hosted an August Recess Public Policy Update Webinar for community college leaders. Below is a high-level overview of the topics discussed during the webinar.
Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation
Shortly after President Biden unveiled his Build Back Better agenda, bipartisan negotiations on infrastructure legislation began in the Senate. In late June, President Biden announced his support for a Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework containing $1.2 trillion in funding. Notably, the framework included $65 billion for broadband expansion in addition to funding for roads, bridges, and airlines.
On August 10th, the Senate voted to pass this measure—entitled the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—by a vote of 69 – 30. For a detailed summary of this legislation, click here. The House is expected to consider this proposal after returning from August recess.
Budget Reconciliation Legislation
In addition to “traditional” infrastructure funding, President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda proposed funding for education, workforce, childcare, and other economic recovery priorities. Congressional Democrats are planning to approve funding for these proposals through the budget reconciliation process—a legislative tool used to approve spending with a simple majority vote.
On August 11th 2021, the Senate passed a $3.5 trillion budget resolution by a party-line vote of 50-49. The budget resolution is the first step towards unlocking the reconciliation process and instructs various House and Senate Committees to begin drafting spending legislation. Notably, the instructions allow the Senate HELP Committee to spend $726 billion and the House Education and Labor Committee to spend $779.5 billion to advance President Biden's and Congressional Democrats' economic recovery priorities
The House is expected to return from recess the week of August 23rd to consider the budget resolution. To advocate for the inclusion of community college specific priorities in future reconciliation legislation—including tuition-free community college, funding for community college infrastructure, a community college-led workforce development program, and student success grants—click here.
Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Appropriations Cycle
The annual appropriations process allows Congress to approve discretionary funding for federal agencies and programs each year. Prior to recessing for August, the House of Representatives passed nine out of their twelve appropriations bills, including the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) bill, which contained a 41 percent increase for Department of Education programs specifically. For a breakdown of funding provisions in the LHHS appropriations bill relevant to community colleges, click here.
The Senate is continuing to work through their FY 2022 appropriations process and has not yet unveiled LHHS funding legislation. However, the current fiscal year ends on September 30th, 2021, meaning that Congress will likely need to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded while the FY 2022 remains ongoing.
During the webinar, ACCT government relations staff highlighted the return of “earmarks” in the FY22 appropriations cycle. Earmarks—or funding designated for local projects—were reinstated earlier this year when House Appropriations Chairwoman DeLauro and Senate Appropriations Chairman Leahy announced their committees would accept requests for Community Project Funding and Congressionally Directed Spending.
The House’s FY22 LHHS appropriations bill contained approximately $54 million in Community Project Funding for community colleges. For a full list of approved LHHS Community Project Funding requests, click here. A list of approved earmarks across all twelve appropriations committees can be found here. The Senate has not yet announced approved Congressionally Directed Spending requests for FY22.
This reinstatement of earmarks provides an opportunity for community college leaders to secure additional funding for their institutions, students, and programs. While the window to submit Community Project Funding and Congressional Directed Spending requests for the FY22 cycle has closed, community college leaders are encouraged to communicate their local funding needs to federal policymakers in anticipation of the FY23 appropriations cycle.
This fall will be very busy in Congress as legislators try to complete unfinished business on the aforementioned areas. To stay informed and learn how to continue advocating for community colleges, visit www.acct.org/advocacy, and sign up for our Latest Action in Washington alerts by emails us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject LAW Alert.
José Miranda is the Senior Government Relations Associate at ACCT and can be reached at email@example.com
Katie Brown is the Director of Government Relations at ACCT and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org