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.

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