A House appropriations subcommittee on Thursday afternoon swiftly voted on party lines to move a funding bill for the 2018 fiscal year to the full committee for further markup next week.
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) voted 9-6 to send the bill, which would cut funding for the Department of Education (ED) by $2.4 billion. The bill would also rescind $3.3 billion from the Pell Grant Program reserve – slightly lower than the $3.9 billion reduction proposed in President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget plan. The fiscal year 2018 budget would affect award year 2018-19.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), chairman of the subcommittee, said the overall lower allocation for nondefense discretionary spending “has forced us to make difficult decisions,” but that the bill the subcommittee presented “focuses on key national priorities.”
“I’m proud of the bill I present today,” he said during the markup. “It represents a balanced approach that will benefit every American and maintain appropriate stewardship of taxpayer dollars that we’ve been entrusted with as members of Congress.”
In some ways, the funding bill is a rejection of the Trump administration’s proposed 2018 budget. While the education portion of Trump’s budget proposal included the elimination of several federal student aid programs – such as the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) Program, subsidized loans, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) – the House bill keeps those programs intact. The bill calls for level funding for FSEOG and also for the Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program, which saw a 50 percent cut in Trump’s budget proposal. It also includes increases to programs such as TRIO and Gear Up – at $60 million and $10 million, respectively – which help disadvantaged students prepare for and complete college.
Still, Democrats expressed their dissatisfaction with the funding bill.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the ranking member of the subcommittee, said the bright spots in the bill were outweighed by cuts to other essential programs. She said she was “troubled” to see this particular section of the budget “bearing the brunt of the Republican cuts.” The overall cut to nondefense discretionary spending would be $8 billion, with more than $5 billion coming from the Labor-HHS section.
“This cut is completely unnecessary in my view,” she said. “We have the resources available, yet the majority refuses to allocate them to the essential programs funded through our bill.”
DeLauro also took particular issue with the proposed cuts to the Pell Grant reserve.
The House funding bill, she said, “threatens the very future of the Pell Grant Program” and “does nothing to make college more affordable.”
After opening statements, DeLauro proposed one health care-related amendment to the bill, which was rejected. The subcommittee then voted to move the bill to the full committee for further consideration.
NASFAA continues to monitor the federal budget and appropriations process. As a result of the devastating cuts to student aid proposed in Trump’s budget, NASFAA launched a “Fight for Financial Aid” campaign with tools and resources for raising your voice in support of the federal student aid programs. NASFAA encourages all members to join the “Fight for Financial Aid” by liking the campaign’s Facebook page, tweeting with #Fight4FinAid, and by sharing campaign links with friends, colleagues, and students.
Publication Date: 7/14/2017