Pressure builds on Democratic leadership over HBCU funding
Pressure is mounting on the Democratic leadership to ensure that the party’s $ 3.5 trillion social spending program includes more grants for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and advocacy groups are seeking to change the wording of legislation that they believe would force the HBCUs to compete unnecessarily with other minority-serving institutions for grants.
representing Alma adamsAlma Shealey AdamsPressure Leans On Democratic Leadership For HBCU Funding On The Money – Presented By Wells Fargo – Pelosi Jumping On A Busy Platform House Democrat Threatens To Vote Against Party Spending Bill if the HBCUs do not receive more federal aid PLUS (D-Ga.) Was the first to threaten to suspend his support for the comprehensive spending bill if the text is not amended. Since then, CBC members such as Reps Federica Wilson (D-Fla.) And Terri SewellTerrycina (Terri) Andrea Sewell Thousands march through Washington to argue for voting rights Activists prepare for voting rights march to mark King’s birthday House approves John Lewis voting rights measure (D-Ala.) Expressed similar concerns with the measure.
The pressure comes as House Democrats, who have a very slim majority in the chamber, already face potential defections from moderates on issues such as drug prices. Democrats can only afford to lose three caucus members if they hope to pass the $ 3.5 trillion package that includes a large chunk of President BidenJoe BidenUN meeting with US and France canceled due to timing issue Schumer to lift GOP blockade on Biden state.the economic agenda of.
In an interview with The Hill this week, Wilson said she was “ready to vote against” the package if the text surrounding the grant program was not changed.
“I would definitely go in that direction,” Wilson told The Hill. ” There is no doubt. This is how I feel strongly about it.
Sewell said that while she believed the next spending plan that the Democrats worked out “would make significant investments in the excellence of the HBCU,” she also said she shared “many of Representative Adams’ concerns.”
In a statement to The Hill, a representative of Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) Said the congressman had no comment on the possibility of withholding a vote on the floor as management continues to work on the legislation.
However, the spokesperson also said that “the congressman wants to see resources and funding increase for all these important schools – without forcing them to compete with themselves.
The situation underscores the big task the group’s management faces as they work to craft a massive spending plan key to Biden’s economic program. Democrats have struggled to stay united amid spending negotiations for the next package, which the party hopes to pass without any GOP support, allowing them to avoid Republican obstruction in the Senate.
In recent days, tensions have peaked in Congress as leaders attempt to find common ground between belligerent demands from different factions on issues ranging from proposed tax hikes on wealthy corporations and individuals to negotiations. for lower drug prices.
The leadership is expected to make further changes to the legislation before it is a floor vote, and HBCU advocates hope language regarding the grants program is one of them.
For Adams and some of his colleagues, a quick and easy fix is needed for the part of the legislation put forward last week by the House Education and Labor Committee. As currently worded, HBCUs and institutions serving minorities could apply for grant funding, but advocates say the text does not put in place specific funding streams.
Advocates also argue that the provision as it exists would give other institutions serving minorities an unfair head start in grant funding, noting that HBCUs generally have smaller endowments, depend on tuition fees and , due to a history of discrimination, had less access to Capitale.
In a letter to other CBC executives over the weekend, Adams said the policy went against Biden’s agenda, given his 2020 campaign pledge to “demand that competitive grant programs put similar universities compete against each other, ensuring that HBCUs only compete with HBCUs. “
Adams, a member of the Education and Labor Committee, is also concerned about another provision that would direct the Secretary of Education to prioritize schools that receive less than $ 10 million per year in federal research funds.
While Adams said she understood the language was meant to support schools with low research capacity, she also said the legislation would ultimately slow efforts to finally see an HBCU enter the first level of research activities for colleges and universities.
And she is not alone.
Lodriguez Murray, vice president of public policy and government affairs at the United Negro College Fund, said second-level HBCUs “are not treated well in the bill to give them the springboard” to join first-grade schools plan.
Murray said it is important that the provisions treat HBCUs more “fairly so that they have a strong chance to climb the ladder and garner more research-intensive opportunities.”
Murray also pointed out the contrast between the legislation and Biden’s previous proposal for north of $ 90 billion to be spent on HBCUs and institutions serving minorities.
“Forty-five billion was for research and development infrastructure,” he said, pointing to previous White House proposals for the US plan for Biden’s jobs.
“And now to go from $ 45 billion to that end, which would have been a cake big enough for all the different types of institutions to fight… down to a $ 2 billion pot. juxtaposed, ”he said.
An aide to the Democratic committee said the representative. Bobby scottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottDemocrats reach critical point to pass Biden agenda Biden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act Now is the time to end lower pay for people with disabilities MORE (D-Va.), Chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, raised concerns from lawmakers to House leadership about the HBCU funding portion of the budget reconciliation program.
Wilson, who is also a member of the education and labor committee, said Scott assured him that the legislation surrounding the grant structure would be changed before it was put to a vote.
“This is wrong. It needs to be changed,” Wilson said, adding “this is not a monetary addition” but “a policy correction”.
Scott’s office did not return a request for comment.