Democrats Begin Reconciliation Process, Paving Route to Further COVID Aid

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter 

Congressional Democrats have begun the reconciliation process by unveiling a joint budget resolution, setting the stage for a legislative package that if enacted could bypass the Senate’s 60-vote threshold and push through a number of policy priorities.

The effort is being made to pave the way to enact a measure aligned with President Joe Biden’s initial coronavirus relief plan, which through the reconciliation process would only require simple majorities of approval in both chambers of Congress.

Biden’s plan would allocate $170 billion for education. It specifically calls for an expansion of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), asking Congress to provide $35 billion in funding to public institutions, and calls for an additional $5 billion in funds for governors, similar to the Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, to use to support education in the hardest hit communities for students “significantly impacted” by COVID-19.

The actual legislative text of a pandemic relief bill is still in the works. Before leaders are able to move that text they first need to come to agreement on certain budgetary impacts and work those parameters through committees that have jurisdiction over the totals.

“Congress has a responsibility to quickly deliver immediate comprehensive relief to the American people hurting from COVID-19,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who introduced the joint resolution on Monday. “With this budget resolution, the Democratic Congress is paving the way for the landmark Biden-Harris coronavirus package that will crush the virus and deliver real relief to families and communities in need."

The leaders’ decision to begin the reconciliation process comes ahead of a meeting between Biden and a group of Senate Republicans who have pitched their own, far more narrowed, pandemic relief plan that could garner a bipartisan compromise should the parties be able to bridge the difference between Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan and Senate Republicans’ $618 billion proposal. 

If those talks do not garner bipartisan buy-in, Senate Democrats will have no margin for error and need the entire Senate conference to vote in favor of the plan.

Stay Tuned to Today’s News on how higher education will be impacted in the ongoing coronavirus relief negotiations.


Publication Date: 2/2/2021

Ken B | 2/3/2021 10:34:51 AM

I have not seen any media comment (and I may have missed it somewhere) that with regard to higher education the Biden plan includes funding for public institutions but not private, non-profit institutions. Are not the approximately 2.8 million students attending private non-profit institutions in need of emergency relief as well?

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