House Moves Forward on Build Back Better Act, Passes Infrastructure Bill
November 08, 2021

The House voted to approve a key procedural measure early Saturday morning to prepare for what congressional Democrats hope will be the eventual passage of the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act, President Biden’s signature domestic spending bill which includes a number of programs and funding for students and higher education institutions.

The party-line vote came soon after the House passed the $1 trillion, Senate-approved bipartisan infrastructure bill that provides historic funding levels to rebuild the nation’s roads and bridges and new efforts on climate change, which will now go to president’s desk. Colleges and universities will receive funding to expand access to broadband and low-income students will be eligible for service and device assistance under the law.

The other bill, known as the Build Back Better Act, contains a broader range of provisions for students and institutions. It includes a $550 increase in the maximum Pell Grant (and making Dreamers and some other non-citizen students eligible for federal student financial aid); workforce and apprenticeships programs; and funding for HBCUs, tribal colleges, as well as HSIs and other MSIs.

From Framework to Final Bill

In an update to that bill’s framework released last month, community colleges would partner on a new program of “industry partnership grants” administered by the Education Department. The latest bill text calls for nearly $5 billion over five years for the grants, which would establish industry or sector partnerships to expand workforce development programs in high-skill, high-wage, or in-demand sectors or occupations.

The bill also would establish a five-year “parole” status for individuals who entered the United States before 2011, protection from deportation, and work authorization. It does not provide permanent status or a pathway to citizenship that was in the previous proposals, which ACE and other higher education associations will continue to strongly advocate for regardless of the outcome of reconciliation. This would likely impact around 7 million undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers.

In the Senate, this immigration strategy would be presented as "Plan C,” the third attempt to include a provision for Dreamers that would pass muster with the Senate parliamentarian, who rejected the two previous attempts as not complying with Senate budget rules. Democratic leaders have said they will need to find another legislative vehicle to provide protections for Dreamers and others if Plan C is not accepted.

What Happens Next?

Democratic leaders originally had scheduled a vote on both bills for Friday. However, a group of moderate Democrats urged a delay for the Build Back Better Act until it received a score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) laying out how much it would add to the national debt.

This strategy reportedly upset House progressives, endangering the infrastructure bill. The president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) intervened, offering a deal where in exchange for progressives’ votes for the infrastructure package, moderates would pledge to vote for the spending bill, so long as the Congressional Budget Office finds the measure’s fiscal impact is as projected.

It could take as much as two weeks for the House to get a CBO score on the bill, putting a potential final vote right before the Thanksgiving break. Even once the bill passes the House, it will still face an uncertain journey through the Senate.​