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Budget Negotiations Dominate Fall Agenda

September 18, 2017

President Donald Trump surprised many in the Washington establishment earlier this month when details emerged on a deal with Democrats to fund the government through December 8 and avert a debt crisis that many had anticipated for September.

The president signed a spending measure, attached to an initial aid package for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, on September 8. The bill also included a provision to extend the federal debt limit and gave the federal government the ability to borrow—and use measures to avert default—until early spring.

However, lawmakers will need to pass an FY18 spending plan (or another temporary extension) in December. The must-pass measure will likely be a vehicle to finance hurricane relief and lawmakers will also see it as an opportunity to finalize a deal on additional spending for border security, a top priority for Trump.

NIH Funding

Working on FY18 spending details, the appropriations committees in both the House and the Senate rejected the Trump administration’s proposed 10 percent cap on reimbursements of facilities and administrative (F&A) costs on National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants. Identical language in both bills explicitly prohibits any changes to the current formula used to calculate indirect costs; Congress also included the F&A language in the recently passed stopgap spending bill that will fund the government through December 8.

Student Aid

Both chambers also would maintain the funding for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and Federal Work-Study at FY17 levels, and would increase the maximum Pell Grant award. The Senate proposal would increase the maximum Pell award by $100, to $6,020.

While these committee actions are demonstrations of support for research and student aid, the decisions are not final until enacted into law. As in recent months, Washington will remain unpredictable. Colleges and universities should continue to engage with lawmakers to ensure that student aid and research funding continue to be top priorities in Washington.


Liz Clark
Senior Director, Federal Affairs