By Owen Daugherty, NASFAA Staff Reporter
A bipartisan House caucus on Tuesday released what it’s billing as the “March To Common Ground” plan to serve as a possible COVID-19 relief package as Congress is locked in a stalemate over another piece of legislation to respond to the ongoing pandemic.
The House Problem Solvers Caucus — made up of 25 Republicans and 25 Democrats — released the framework, which calls for up to $2 trillion to address a variety of needs, with $30 billion to be directed toward higher education.
The proposal serves as the most recent step toward a bipartisan compromise, as both Democrats’ and Republican’s proposals have failed to pass both chambers and negotiations between the White House and Democratic leadership have been stalled for weeks, with hope dwindling that any legislation could get passed before the November election.
“Americans deserve a functioning Congress that can rise to the challenge and deliver the relief they need,” caucus Co-Chair Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) said in a release. “Our framework reflects months of bipartisan consensus-building on the actions the federal government can take to help working families and local communities across the country as they navigate the impacts of COVID-19. We are hopeful this package will help bring lead negotiations back to the table as we try to solve this problem for the American people.”
The $30 billion for higher education institutions is double what was included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which passed the House in May but has yet to be taken up in the Senate, Democrats called for $37 billion for higher education. In the Senate, the Republican Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act would direct just over $29 billion to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF).
The bipartisan caucus’ proposal stands little chance of becoming law and was quickly met with opposition from Democratic House leaders, who said in a joint statement that it "falls short of what is needed to save lives and boost the economy."
“When it comes to bolstering the public health system, supporting state and local governments, and assisting struggling families, the Problem Solvers’ proposal leaves too many needs unmet,” the statement said.
Even with support from House Democrats, the proposal would likely be a non-starter in the Republican-controlled Senate, which introduced a slimmed-down $500 billion proposal last week that failed to pass the chamber.
While negotiations haven't progressed in weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said this week that she wanted the House to remain in session until a deal was reached. Additionally, Congress needs to agree on a package to fund the government to avoid a shutdown before funding expires at the end of September.
Publication Date: 9/17/2020