The Senate Appropriations committee on Thursday unveiled its annual spending plan, which contains $79.6 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Education (ED), and subsequently advanced the proposal out of the full committee by a vote of 26-2.
The committee did not immediately release the full bill text, its report, or any accompanying amendments but instead provided a summary of the package.
The Senate’s bipartisan proposal comes in below the President’s budget request for education spending, but spares a number of higher education programs from steep cuts that were proposed in the package put forth by House Republicans.
Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), the chair and ranking member of the committee, noted that the committee succeeded in passing all 12 appropriations bills for the first time in five years. While serving as chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee, Murray was known for her ability to strike bipartisan compromises on often contentious issues.
“I think what this committee has achieved is good proof that it is possible to work together, that it is possible to make a real difference and to find common ground and produce serious, bipartisan bills that can be signed into law,” Murray said at the end of the hearing. “There is no reason for chaos or gridlock when it comes to making sure our government is funded — as this committee has shown in working together this summer.”
The bill contains a $250 increase to the maximum Pell Grant which would bring the total maximum award for the 2024-25 award year to $7,645. By comparison, the White House proposal seeks a maximum award of $8,215, while the House would flat-fund the program.
The committee also said TRIO, GEAR UP, and Postsecondary Student Success Grants would have their funding maintained from fiscal year 2023 levels. An official report and text of those spending levels are expected to be published on the committee’s website.
According to reports from POLITICO the bill would also increase funding for the department’s Office of Federal Student Aid by $150 million, or about 7%, bringing the total to nearly $2.2 billion.
Appropriators skipped the subcommittee markup for the bill and can now consider the bill on the Senate floor. House leaders have sought to advance some of their spending proposals through their chamber before the August recess, but still need to consider the Labor-H bill in the full appropriations committee. It is unclear whether the House will complete its committee work before it adjourns for its August recess.
Murray noted that though the legislation was not perfect, it was the culmination of “solid bills that provide necessary resources,” and were a product of bipartisan cooperation that the committee believed could become law.
Collins said she hopes that the full Senate will begin considering packaged spending bills in September.
Publication Date: 7/28/2023