Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Senate Introduces Omnibus Appropriations Bill

Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Daniel Inouye (D-HI) introduced the Omnibus Appropriations bill, which totals $1.1 billion. The Omnibus bill includes $5.7 billion for the Pell Grant shortfall, all appropriations bills for FY2011, and earmarks. Chair Inouye noted that he believes he has the 60 votes necessary to get cloture and pass the bill. If the Senate passes the Omnibus bill, the House is expected to move and pass the bill as well. Earlier this month, the House passed a year-long continuing resolution but was looking to the Senate to finalize action on the Omnibus bill. Congress needs to pass the Omnibus bill before December 18th, because that is when the current continuing resolution is set to expire.

The Omnibus bill can be viewed here.

The Senate is continuing to work on the tax-cut extenders bill, which incorporates the agreement between the Administration and Senate Republicans. The Senate voted 83-15 for cloture to move to consider the bill. When the Senate completes this action, the bill will be sent to the House for consideration. With a full legislative calendar, the Senate is expected to be in session next week. The Senate is also expected to vote on cloture on the House-passed DREAM Act this week.

Read more!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

House Passes Continuing Resolution, DREAM Act; Senate Expected to Consider Both Bills

Last night, the House approved H.R. 3082, a year-long continuing resolution to fund the government until the end of the current federal fiscal year (September 30, 2011), by a vote of 212-206. Now that the House has passed the bill, it will be presented to the Senate for consideration. In past years, continuing resolutions typically have been less robust, but this continuing resolution will provide additional funds to crucial areas. Most importantly for community colleges, the bill provides an additional $5.7 billion to deal with the Pell Grant shortfall. Meanwhile, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) continues to work on an Omnibus Appropriations bill, and he will attempt to present the Omnibus bill as a substitute for the House continuing resolution. If the Senate gets the 60 votes necessary Omnibus bill cloture, the bill will be sent back for the House’s consideration. The Omnibus bill is preferable to a long-term continuing resolution, because it would include higher funding levels (and earmarks). ACCT is also hopeful that the program changes to the Community College and Career-Training Grant Program will be included in the Omnibus bill.

In other news, the House approved its version of the DREAM Act last night by a vote of 216-198. The bill will move to the Senate, but the bill approved by the House is different than the one that will be considered by the Senate. If the Senate passes its bill, the House will need to consider the Senate-passed version of the bill. The Senate is slated to vote on cloture on S. 3992, which is the latest version of the DREAM Act authored by Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL). S. 3992 has been amended to gather the additional support necessary to reach the 60 votes necessary for cloture. Unlike other versions of the DREAM Act, the bill does not repeal the federal ban on in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants and does not allow undocumented immigrants to receive Pell grants. However, the bill does provide a legal pathway for immigrants to pursue citizenship, provided that they meet set criteria. The text of S. 3992 can be found here.

Additionally, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) attempted to move “The Middle Class Tax Cut Act of 2010,” this past weekend, but the bill was not able to get cloture. Because of this outcome, the Administration and Senate Republican leaders later agreed on a tax extenders bill. The major provisions of the tax measure would include the income tax cuts that were passed during the previous Administration. For higher education, the bill includes a two-year extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The Senate is working to finalize the whole package, but the measure may face a filibuster, which would delay consideration and final passage.

While most Congressional leaders were determined weeks ago, the House Republican Steering Committee met this week and recommended Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) to be the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and Rep. John Kline (R-MN) to be the Chair of the House Education and Labor Committee. The House Republican conference supported the recommendations. Incoming House Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) released the upcoming House calendar for 2011. The schedule can be accessed here.

Don't miss your opportunity to meet with your members of Congress, Congressional Staff, and Meet the Press moderator David Gregory during the 2011 Community College National Legislative Summit this February 13-16 in Washington, D.C. Make sure to register before December 22 to secure the early registration discount. And be sure to register for the pre-Summit Advocacy Academy on February 13. This new academy is tailored to the needs of federal advocacy for community colleges. For more information and to register, click here. Read more!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

House Passes Two-Week Stop Gap Funding Bill: DREAM Act Vote on the Horizon

Today, the House of Representatives by a vote of 239-178 passed a two-week continuing resolution to fund the government until December 18. The Senate will now consider the legislation. For the past month, Congressional leaders and the Administration have been working to resolve the FY11 appropriations bills. The current continuing resolution will have expired this Friday, December 3. The discussions are now centered on a short-term or long-term continuing resolution or an Omnibus Appropriations bill. Appropriations leaders are supporting an effort to finalize an Omnibus Appropriations bill because the funding totals will be higher and the bill will include Congressional earmarks. Either way, leaders are crafting a bill that will be funded at a substantially lower level than that of the President's budget request. Furthermore, the $5.7 billion Pell Grant shortfall continues to be an issue that will likely need to be addressed next year.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has announced that there may be a vote to consider the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill this week. While the bill has majority support, it still appears that the bill lacks the 60 votes necessary to proceed. ACCT is a member of the Act on the DREAM Coalition and supports the passage of the bill. In a move that complicates all Senate action, all Senate Republicans sent a letter to Majority Leader Reid stating that they would not vote for cloture on any bill until the Senate resolves the federal funding bills and the Bush-era income tax cuts are extended.

Also today, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which was tasked to address our nation's fiscal challenges, released its report, the Moment of Truth. The Commission was charged with identifying policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run. Of note, the report stated that increased funding should be focused on “high-priority investments America will need to remain competitive, such as increasing college graduation rates.”

The report can be viewed here. Read more!