By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Senior Staff Reporter
President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda will face an incredibly challenging path forward in the new year along with key higher education investments that may no longer have a route to enactment under the current legislative landscape.
Following the announcement from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) that he could not vote in favor of the Build Back Better Act, the course of action on a large-scale reconciliation package remains fraught with challenges.
Democrats are still pushing forward with the process, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) indicating that negotiations on the framework will continue, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) pledging that the chamber will consider the Build Back Better Act “very early in the new year.”
“While I am extremely disappointed that this bill has been stalled in the Senate, I will not stop working to lower costs for families and create good-paying jobs for our nation’s workers. Our constituents sent us to Congress to get things done,” said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor. “In the days and weeks ahead, we must find a path forward to deliver for the American people.”
Any Senator who truly wants to lower costs for families, address the climate crisis, and strengthen our economy for now and the future should have no problem supporting #BuildBackBetter. Let's vote. https://t.co/A2nOeiIW86— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) December 20, 2021
However, without Manchin’s backing no reconciliation package will be able to overcome the majority threshold needed in the Senate.
Here are the key higher education provisions most at risk with the potential demise of a second reconciliation bill:
2022 and the Legislative Agenda
If Manchin cannot get on board with another framework for a reconciliation bill, advancing legislation will be far more difficult and require a 60-vote threshold in the Senate.
In the weeks ahead if there is no movement on reworking Build Back Better, the congressional focus will likely shift to the annual appropriations process, where Republicans have more leverage in crafting provisions that could get tacked onto another continuing resolution or an omnibus package.
What We’re Watching
Does the new legislative landscape and potential demise of Build Back Better prompt the administration to test its executive authority? Progressives, infuriated by Manchin’s announcement, are doubling down on their calls for the White House to commit to using executive authority in a way to deliver on their policy priorities, pointing to the end of the federal student loan moratorium as a potential place for action.
With BBB delayed, Child Tax Credits will expire and student loans will restart within a matter of weeks. Working families could lose thousands of $/mo just as prices are rising.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 20, 2021
That alone is reason for @POTUS to act on student loans ASAP - w/ either moratorium or cancellation.
The student loan moratorium was slated to expire at the end of January, with the administration reminding borrowers that they will need to start making payments after a nearly two-year hiatus. The administration has continually committed to restarting the repayment system come February.
Higher ed partners: Encourage borrowers to prepare for federal student loan payments to begin after Jan. 31 by taking these six steps: https://t.co/m29YgWo7Rp pic.twitter.com/W1sZkmC01D— Richard Cordray (@FSACOO) December 20, 2021
However, the White House, citing the recent spike in COVID-19 cases and additional economic concerns imposed by the pandemic, on Wednesday further extended the payment pause through May 1, raising questions into how the administration will implement a communication plan that will accurately inform borrowers of the need to re-enter into repayment.
The 90-day extension will provide borrowers more time to prepare for the resumption of payments and will allow the Biden administration to assess the impacts of the omicron variant, the White House said in a statement announcing the extension.
“As we prepare for the return to repayment in May, we will continue to provide tools and supports to borrowers so they can enter into the repayment plan that is responsive to their financial situation, such as an income-driven repayment plan,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.
Stay tuned to Today’s News as we follow the latest developments concerning higher education.
Publication Date: 12/23/2021
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