• September 2, 2014

Senate Panel Passes Bill Raising Pell Grant and NIH Support

U.S. Senate appropriators approved a bill on Tuesday that would increase the maximum Pell Grant by $85 in the 2013 fiscal year and give $100-million more in funds to the National Institutes of Health.

Under the bill, the maximum Pell award would jump from $5,550 to $5,635 starting in the 2013-14 academic year. The increase, which would be the first since the 2010-11 academic year, would result from a mandatory inflation adjustment while discretionary appropriations to the program would remain level.

The bill would also keep spending flat for most other student-aid programs, including Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and Federal Work-Study, in the 2013 fiscal year, which begins on October 1.

The increased support for the NIH, from $30.6-billion to $30.7-billion, would "promote our nation's long-term economic prosperity" and "help the United States remain the world leader in biomedical research," said Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, a Democrat and the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the bill approved on Tuesday.

"It's a good bill, given our budget constraints," he said.

The panel passed the measure by a 10-to-7 party-line vote. Republicans said they had opposed the bill because it would finance the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's law to reform the health-care system.

Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the subcommittee, said he had rejected the bill because it "provides billions of discretionary dollars to further fund a massive government expansion that will devastate our federal budget and have catastrophic effects on our current health-care system."

The full Senate Appropriations Committee will vote on the bill on Thursday.

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