July 28, 2021

Washington Wire: House Democrats Pass Higher Education Bill out of Committee along Party Lines


House Democrats Pass Higher Education Bill out of Committee along Party Lines  

On October 30, the House Education and Labor Committee passed H.R. 4674, the College Affordability Act (CAA), out of committee by a 28 to 22 party-line vote. The CAA would update the Higher Education Act (HEA) for the first time since 2008 and increase the maximum Pell Grant to $6,820 for the 2021 fiscal year. Assuming the Democrat-controlled House votes for the CAA, uncertainties over how to pay for its estimated cost of $400 billion over 10 years and the bill’s changes to financial aid, debt repayment, and free community college makes it highly unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate in its current form. In a statement made after Democrats in the committee voted for the CAA, Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) stated “[t]his partisan legislation will contribute to exploding college costs, exacerbate our nation’s skills gap, and allow failing programs to go unchecked. This approach will force students to spend more to learn less.” One Voice is supportive of several of the provisions included in the measure such as the providing more transparency about college costs and expanding Pell Grants, however the associations are hopeful for a bipartisan measure for Congress to send President Trump in late Winter or early Spring.



Labor Department Inspector General Investigating Apprenticeship Funding
At the end of October and at the urging of House Democrats, the Labor Department’s Inspector General reported the agency improperly redirected $1.1 million to Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP) funds. Crucially, the Labor Department has not finalized its IRAP rule creating a new apprenticeship system and Congress has not allocated any funding for the program. One Voice supports the creation of IRAPs, which, when established, will allow manufacturing trade associations to certify apprenticeship in accordance with industry standards.
In several congressional hearings, former Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta had assured representatives that the Labor Department would not use federal funds to advance IRAPs. Congressional Democrats have latched onto the Inspector General’s report to question the viability of the IRAP proposal in their attempt to stop the rule before the administration can finalize it.
The proposed rule establishes a process for recognizing Standards Recognition Entities (SREs), which will in turn recognize IRAPs. In addition, the rule outlines the responsibilities and requirements for SREs and sets out how the Administrator of the Office of Apprenticeship will interact with SREs. Moreover, the proposed rule describes how Industry Programs would operate in parallel with the existing registered apprenticeship system. The Labor Department considers its industry-led, market-driven approach provides essential flexibility to scale the apprenticeship model and address America’s skills gap. One Voice is working with the Labor Department on expanding access to apprenticeships and the IRAPs.



 President Trump Misses Deadline on Section 232 Tariffs on European Autos, Parts
With the deadline set to act for November 13, the Trump administration made no decision on whether to implement tariffs of up to 25 percent on vehicles and parts imported from Europe, and other countries besides Mexico, Canada, Japan, and South Korea. In May, President Trump declared he was postponing a decision on recommendations by the Commerce Department on whether to apply tariffs by 180 days until November. On the day before the deadline, President Trump stated he will “make a decision fairly soon.” Earlier this month, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stated the tariffs may not be necessary because of “good conversations” between the United States and European automakers. In addition, European Union officials stated they had received “a solid indication from the administration that there will not be tariffs.” However, nothing is certain until President Trump makes an official announcement.



Trump Administration Will Support Modest Annual Improvements to GHG Standards
As the Trump administration works to finalize its Safer Affordable Fuel Economy (SAFE) rule, new reporting indicates the administration has decided to include modest annual improvements for greenhouse gas (GHG) standards. According to these sources, in an attempt to get most of the automotive industry to support the Trump administration’s plan, the final SAFE rule’s GHG standards will require a 1.5 percent annual increase in fuel economy. The administration originally planned to freeze GHG standards, triggering a fight between it and the state of California.
Over the summer, California and the automakers Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and BMW reached their own agreement, requiring a 3.7 percent annual increase in fuel economy. Because of this agreement, the Trump administration proposed revoking California’s Clean Air Act Waiver and the Department of Justice started an antitrust investigation into the agreement. Furthermore, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, and Toyota announced they were siding with the Trump administration and not California over automobile fuel economy standards