Facing a Lengthy To-Do List, Congress Begins Stretch Run to August Recess

July 24, 2020

Ahead of its traditional monthlong break beginning August 7, Congress is working to move forward and, in some cases, complete action on critical funding measures. The House has made substantial progress on FY21 legislation with a goal of completing action on all 12 appropriations bills within the next week. Less clear at this point but considered a must-do across the government is the next COVID-19 relief package. Finally, the annual FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – setting defense policy for the next year – is well underway, although final approval is not expected until September.

FY21 Appropriations Process

The House Appropriations Committee advanced all twelve spending bills for FY21 and the leadership has prioritized completing action in the House this month.  Although last year’s bipartisan budget agreement provided a mere $5 billion above FY20 levels for defense and non-defense discretionary accounts, House Democratic appropriators nevertheless were able to provide increases for many priorities by designating $250 billion as off-budget, emergency funding. For this and various other policy disputes, House Republicans have not supported the bills and it is expected that the Republican majority in the Senate will produce very different bills. Even so, these bills provide valuable insights into Democratic funding priorities and, for research agencies receiving supplemental support, help inform the next COVID package. They also serve as a jumping-off point for FY21 negotiations with the Senate, which, with the political calendar, seem unlikely to begin in earnest until later in the year. We do expect however that both parties will want to avoid any lapse in funding and will enact stopgap continuing funding as necessary from the October 1 start of the new fiscal year potentially into the post-election lame-duck session.

The full chart of University priorities is below. On the whole, research agencies and student-aid accounts received flat or modestly increased funding, with the exception of the National Institutes of Health, which received a $500 million increase in base funds and an additional $5 billion in off-budget emergency supplemental funds to cover the partial costs of the ramp down/ramp up of research labs due to COVID 19.

 

Final FY20

FY20 v. FY19

FY21 House Committee

FY21 House Committee v. FY20

 
 

Labor-HHS-Education

 

 

 

 

 

    NIH

41684

6.7%

46959*

12.7%*

 

    Pell Grants (Discretionary Funding)

22475

0.0%

22475

0.0%

 

    Pell Grants (Max Grant)

6345

2.4%

6495

2.4%

 

    Federal Perkins Loans

 

 

 

 

 

    Work Study

1180

4.4%

1210

2.5%

 

    SEOG

865

3.0%

880

1.7%

 

    TRIO

1090

2.8%

1100

0.9%

 

    GEAR UP

365

1.4%

370

1.4%

 

    Title VI

76.2

5.5%

80.3

5.4%

 

    GAANN

23

0.0%

24

4.3%

 

    Institute of Education Sciences

623.5

1.3%

630.5

1.1%

 

    Institute of Museum and Library Services

252

4.1%

257

2.0%

 

Commerce-Justice-Science

 

 

 

 

 

    NSF -Total

8278.3

2.5%

8548.2

3.3%

 

       NSF- Research and Related

6737.2

3.3%

6967.1

3.4%

 

       NSF - Major Research Equipment

243.2

-17.8%

243.2

0.0%

 

       NSF - Ed & HR

940

3.3%

970.0

3.2%

 

    NASA -Total

22630

5.3%

22630

0.0%

 

       NASA - Science

7138.9

3.4%

7097.5

-0.6%

 

       NASA - Aeronautics

783.9

8.1%

819

4.5%

 

       NASA - Education

120

9.1%

126

5.0%

 

Defense

 

 

 

 

 

    6.1 Basic Research

2603

2.9%

2621.5

0.7%

 

    6.2 Applied Research

6069.8

0.0%

5921

-2.5%

 

    DARPA

3460

0.8%

3511.8

1.5%

 

Energy and Water

 

 

 

 

 

    Office of Science - Total

7000

6.3%

7050

0.7%

 

       High Energy Physics

1045

6.6%

1050

0.5%

 

       Nuclear Physics

713

3.3%

715

0.3%

 

       Basic Energy Sciences

2213

2.2%

2242

1.3%

 

       Biological and Envir. Research

750

6.4%

760

1.3%

 

    ARPA-E

425

16.1%

435

2.4%

 

Interior-Environment

 

 

 

 

 

    NEA

162.2

4.6%

170

4.8%

 

    NEH

162.2

4.6%

170

4.8%

 

    EPA S&T

716.4

1.4%

745.3

4.0%

 

Prepared by the Office of Federal Relations. Last updated July 2020

*Includes $5 billion emergency funding

         

 

COVID-19 Relief Package

There has been significant disagreement over the scope and scale of a fourth (or fifth, depending how you count) COVID-19 relief package, but in recent weeks, House and Senate leadership and the White House agree broadly that another significant legislative effort is needed, and the August recess is the expected timeline for action. Members have yet to coalesce around a mix of policies but the final product is expected to top $1 trillion in assistance to individuals, businesses, states, and schools. Late in May, the House passed the HEROES Act, which offered $3 trillion of additional assistance to state and local governments, supplemental funding for federal and local public-health efforts, assistance to schools, and extended assistance to individuals through unemployment insurance. Just this week, Senate Republicans have struggled over the combination and cost of their alternative relief proposal that is expected ultimately to provide more limited and shorter-term assistance to individuals, funding for K-12 and higher education, and support for businesses to maintain employment through loans, tax relief, and liability protections, which are a priority for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Meanwhile, President Trump and other top Administration officials have sought to tie federal assistance to reopening generally and specifically in the education sector to in-person reopening. Many Senate Republicans reportedly favor incentivizing in-person instruction at K-12 schools versus conditioning aid on reopening. As the key negotiators from all sides begin meeting and debating the details in earnest over the coming days, more information will emerge as the potential package – and any education and research provisions – takes shape.

FY21 NDAA

Both the House and Senate completed action on their versions of the FY21 NDAA with strong bipartisan votes, although the President has threatened to veto the final measure if it contains (as both versions currently do) language requiring renaming of bases that currently carry the names of Confederate military leaders. In areas of more direct concern to the university and research communities, the bills in both chambers provide mixed results for Defense research accounts, with reductions in authorizations for basic research and modest increases for applied research and DARPA. On a positive note, after a concerted push by higher education and the Massachusetts delegation, Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Seth Moulton (D-MA) successfully attached an amendment to the House version that would protect the visa status of both new and continuing international students if their institution decided to move courses online due to the COVID 19 pandemic. And while there has been significant attention to science and security and threats from foreign adversaries in technology and research, the bills did not include the most problematic provisions that had been offered at earlier points. NDAA will head to conference, where bicameral negotiators working with the Administration will hammer out the final text in the coming months.

Next Steps

As the situation continues to evolve in Washington, Harvard’s Office of Federal Relations will remain closely engaged with federal lawmakers and agencies in strong support of the University’s priorities in research and education in the appropriations process, the NDAA, and any emerging COVID-19 relief package.

If you have any questions on this update or Harvard’s advocacy in Washington, please feel free to be in touch with Suzanne Day (suzanne_day@harvard.edu) or Kara Haas (kara_haas@harvard.edu) in our DC office.