Today, the Senate voted for cloture on the supplemental appropriations bill by a vote of 69-29. This paves the way for the Senate to vote on final passage. While the Senate is finishing action, the House Appropriations Committee will not mark up its bill this week. The Committee is postponing action until after the Memorial Day recess period. Earlier this week, House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-WI) announced that he was going to include $23 billion for education jobs and $5.7 billion for the Pell Grant shortfall. Unfortunately, the education jobs funds do not include public higher education. The House leadership is working to gather support for the larger House version of the supplemental bill.
Congressional leaders are continuing to work on a revised “tax extenders” bill, which covers a number of tax provisions that have strong bi-partisan support and have expired or are about to expire. The latest version of the bill would cost $143 billion, of which $59 billion is offset. Moderate Democrats are pushing to reduce the cost of the overall bill or find additional offsets. House leaders have indicated that they will try to have a final vote on the “tax extenders” bill prior to the Memorial Day recess period.
For community colleges, the extenders bill contains important changes to the Community College and Career Training Grant (CCCTG) program funded by the reconciliation bill. The CCCTG program is funded at $500 million for fiscal years 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
According to the summary, the provisions included in the bill would expand the program by authorizing the grants to benefit individuals who are eligible for unemployment insurance, who are likely to be eligible for unemployment insurance (according to specific criteria), or who have exhausted their unemployment insurance. Additionally, the provisions would: (1) clarify that only public and non-profit educational institutions are eligible for grants; (2) authorize the Department of Labor to spend up to five percent of program funds to administer, evaluate, and establish reporting systems for the program; and (3) give the Department of Labor more flexibility by allowing it to obligate grant funds in the year that they are appropriated as well as the subsequent fiscal year. The changes outlined for the community college grant program do not have a cost and rather only affect how the program will function. A summary of the bill can viewed at: http://waysandmeans.house.gov/media/pdf/111/America_Jobs_Summary.pdf