The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education yesterday approved its spending bill for FY 2017. While the news is good for research funding, the bill does not restore year-round Pell Grants—one of the most welcome provisions in the Senate FY 2017 spending bill passed by the Appropriations Committee July 9.
While the House bill likely will be passed by the full committee next week, it is unlikely to go any further. With only two weeks remaining on the congressional calendar this summer and none of the 12 appropriations bills for FY 2017 having been completed, lawmakers reportedly will be forced to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded past Sept. 30.
The measure would increase funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to $33.3 billion, an increase of $1.25 billion above the FY 2016 level. By contrast, the Senate bill funds NIH at $34 billion, a $2 billion increase.
On the Pell Grant front, the House bill would raise the maximum award to $5,935, which is the same as the Obama administration's request and the Senate bill. But the subcommittee rejected an amendment to add year-round Pell to the measure. By contrast, the Senate bill reinstates the grants year-round (a part of the Pell program eliminated due to cost in 2011) and provides additional funding to award grants to one million more students. Similar to the Senate’s approach, the House bill takes funding from a surplus in the Pell Grant Program to pay for other priorities, reducing the current $7.8 billion surplus by $1.3 billion.
Because the actual legislative language in the bill has not been released, details about other parts of the bill are still forthcoming.
The House bill contains several policy riders that would be extremely problematic for Democrats and the White House, including provisions blocking the Department of Education’s regulations on gainful employment, teacher preparation, state authorization, the federal definition of a credit hour and the recent guidance on transgender students.
The bill also would prohibit the Department of Labor from implementing its new overtime rule.