House Build Back Better Act Includes Funding for R&D Infrastructure
House Build Back Better Act Includes Funding for R&D Infrastructure

September 2021

Throughout September, the House has been working to advance the Build Back Better Act, a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package that includes many of President Biden’s priorities advanced in the proposals for the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan earlier this year.

During the week of September 6, the House Science Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee marked up their components of the FY 2022 budget reconciliation bill. The package contains several items that would boost investment in research and data infrastructure in higher education.

The bill includes a total of $11 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF). Of this amount, $3.43 billion would be directed to infrastructure, including $300 million specifically for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs). The bill also contains $7.55 billion for research and related activities (R&RA), which includes $700 million directed to HBCUs, TCUs, HSIs, and other MSIs. The uses of the R&RA funding include new research as well as extensions of research affected by COVID-19 disruptions.

Separate from the funding that would be available to NSF, the reconciliation package also includes $2 billion to the Department of Education for research and development (R&D) infrastructure at HBCUs, TCUs, HSIs, and other MSIs. Other education provisions in the bill include funding for K–12 school infrastructure, free community college, and increasing the maximum amount of the Pell grant.

The reconciliation process allows for a simple majority vote in the Senate. Democrats used this process in February through the FY 2021 budget reconciliation to pass the American Rescue Plan Act without Republican support. The Build Back Better Act faces several obstacles, as House progressive Democrats are seeking to tie a vote on a bipartisan infrastructure package to a vote on the Build Back Better Act. In addition, Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have expressed concerns about the $3.5 trillion price tag, with their votes needed for the bill to pass in the Senate.

Along with the current push to move the reconciliation package, Congress also faces a looming deadline to enact FY 2022 appropriations bills before October 1. The House advanced many of its appropriations bills in July, but the Senate has not taken action on many of the bills, including ones that provide funding for education research and statistics. On September 21, the House passed a continuing resolution (CR) that would provide funding at FY 2021 levels through December 3 and suspend the debt limit until December 2022.  This bill failed to get enough votes to pass in the Senate on September 27 due to opposition from Republicans on including the debt limit suspension in the CR. The CR requires 60 votes to pass. As of press time, Congress was working to advance a CR bill that does not include a debt ceiling provision.