The House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) Appropriations Committee marked up and passed its fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill on May 8 by a party-line vote of 30 to 23. AASCU joined a coalition of higher education groups in submitting a letter in support of the bill, which includes significant increases for higher education programs above last year. In stark contrast to the funding provided in the House bill, the administration’s budget request flat-funded the Pell maximum and cut most higher education accounts.
A summary of the bill can be found here and the report language can be found here. At the markup, the committee also passed the funding allocations for each of the 12 appropriations bills, including the LHHS bill. The House LHHS bill includes increases for the following programs:
Higher education advocates now turn their attention to the Senate, where funding levels are expected to be less generous. While it is unlikely that a final bill would include increases for all of these programs at these funding levels, institutions should still continue to make the strong case that the House funding levels are needed to maintain access.
Part of the challenge for increasing funding on these programs is the domestic and defense budget caps—top-level limits on total spending in each category negotiated in 2011—are scheduled to reduce the total amount of dollars available for domestic programs by 9%. The leadership of the House and the Senate must therefore come to agreement on raising the caps—as they did in 2017—and the administration needs to sign off on any increased spending compromise before any additional spending can be enacted into law.