The House has cleared the Senate’s revisions to President Joe Biden’s top legislative priority: pandemic relief that will offer an expansion of funding for higher education.
The bill, dubbed The American Rescue Plan Act, passed on a near party-line vote of 220-211 with only a single Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine), breaking party ranks to vote in opposition of the measure. No Republican voted in favor of the package.
“Passing this rescue plan will help institutions of higher education weather this pandemic and provide urgent financial assistance to their students,” said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor. “This relief package provides a critical lifeline for institutions and helps students stay enrolled and complete their education.”
Republicans have argued that the aid was jammed through without bipartisan buy-in and does not offer enough targeted relief.
"In the midst of a pandemic, Congress should be able to work together to deliver targeted and temporary relief for all Americans, as we have before,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), ranking member of the House Education and Labor committee. “Instead, Democrats worked unilaterally to ram through legislation that does far more for left-wing interests than it does the American people.”
The package closely mirrors Biden’s initial proposal, unveiled at the outset of his presidency, and would allocate $170 billion for education, about $40 billion of which would be directed toward higher education. The bill included an amendment from the Senate that would close the so-called 90/10 loophole, though the change would not take effect until the Department of Education conducts a negotiated rulemaking process on the rule, starting no earlier than October. The soonest the rule would take effect would be July 1, 2023.
Additionally, the bill would adjust the tax code by making any student loan debt discharged through 2025 tax-free, which some have pointed to as a part of a continued effort to get Biden to cancel student loan debt.
President Biden is expected to sign the legislation on Friday March 12.
For more details on coronavirus relief, see NASFAA’s COVID-19 News Coverage page and stay tuned to Today’s News for more details on the legislative package.
Publication Date: 3/11/2021