Federal Relations

February 10, 2009

Senate Approves Economic Recovery Package

As expected, late Monday afternoon, the Senate voted to advance the “Nelson-Collins Amendment” to the proposed economic recovery package. The amendment, drafted primarily by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME), trimmed the size of the underlying economic recovery bill by approximately $100 billion and garnered enough support (on a 61-36 vote ending debate) to avoid a filibuster. Today, the Senate voted to pass the entire package, which will set-off negotiations between the House and Senate, and involve significant input from the Obama administration. A final package will likely be voted on in both chambers late this week and, if successful, go to the President for signature.

Although the House and Senate versions are quite similar in overall cost, the House bill includes approximately $100 billion more than the Senate in spending. The Senate bill devotes a greater portion of the package to tax cuts. Two items of particular concern at this point include the Senate’s elimination of funding set-aside specifically for infrastructure projects at institutions of higher education, and $40 billion reduction ($79 billion to $39 billion) in funds provide through a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund that would mitigate some of the cuts that states will have to make in their support of K-12 and higher education. We are communicating directly with our delegation, and working with various higher education associates, to make certain that the impact of the Senate cuts is well understood on the Hill. There is an opportunity for some of the proposed Senate cuts to be reinstated before a final bill is passed, but the situation remains precarious because the loss of two or more votes in the Senate (where spending provisions are less popular) when the bill comes up for final consideration will serve as a roadblock.

For a side-by-side chart of the House and Senate (with Nelson-Collins cuts) higher education provisions (click here).