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President Biden Signs the Fiscal Responsibility Act

This weekly Washington Update is intended to keep members informed on Capitol Hill activities impacting the educator preparation community. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

Just days before America was expected to reach the debt limit, President Biden signed into law the Fiscal Responsibility Act. The measure passed in the Senate with a 63-36 vote — nearly 24 hours after the House cleared the bill 314-117. The legislation raises the debt ceiling until January 2025 and flat funds fiscal year (FY) 2024 and limits a funding increase for FY 2025 to just 1%. Additionally, the deal changes some SNAP and TANF rules that will limit eligibility for some, rescinds some of the IRS funding provided in the Inflation Reduction Act, ends the pause on student loan repayments at the end of summer, rescinds some unobligated COVID-relief funding and a few other changes.

In regard to the unobligated COVID-relief funding, the U.S Department of Education has indicated that this does not apply to the allocations under K-12’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds since that money is considered to already be obligated. 

Additionally, the department said $390 million of Higher Education Emergency Relief Funding that would be rescinded includes funds that were either returned or not claimed by institutions of higher education-a small portion of the $76 billion in total funding for recovery efforts.

For additional context, caps were previously in place for non-defense discretionary funding, which includes education, from FY 2013-21. During that time, education funding was cut and then took 6 years to return to the 2011 level in nominal dollars- it has not yet returned to 2011 levels when accounting for inflation.

In a statement, American Federation of Teachers President, Randi Weingarten said in part:

“This deal avoids the $130 billion in draconian cuts to education and other critical public services. It rejects deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the president’s student debt plan and ignores far-right demands to undo progress on climate change. Yet, we remain troubled by other aspects of the bill. These include new restrictions on SNAP food assistance, impacting thousands of vulnerable adults, and the slashing of resources allocated to the IRS to pursue tax evaders, while maintaining tax breaks for billionaires. We believe that Congress should have passed a clean bill raising the debt limit weeks ago. But in the face of an imminent default that would raise costs on everything from car loans to mortgage payments, both legislative chambers must approve this deal to allow the federal government to pay its bills and avoid massive harm to the students, families, workers, and communities that need and rely on government to work for them.”

The White House and President Biden also issued a statement saying:

“No one gets everything they want in a negotiation, but make no mistake: this bipartisan agreement is a big win for our economy and the American people. It protects the core pillars of my Investing in America agenda that is creating good jobs across the country, fueling a resurgence in manufacturing, rebuilding our infrastructure, and advancing clean energy. It safeguards peoples’ health care and retirement security, protecting bedrock programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. It protects vital investments in hardworking families that help make our country strong—from child care and education, to public safety and Meals on Wheels. It protects my student debt relief plan for hardworking borrowers. And it honors America’s sacred obligation to our veterans by fully funding veterans’ medical care. Our work is far from finished, but this agreement is a critical step forward, and a reminder of what’s possible when we act in the best interests of our country…”

Read the House Majority’s summary of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.