Alexander: Appropriations Committee Passes Legislation that Supports the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and Our Nation’s Students

Says legislation also reins in the NLRB, prohibits burdensome or unhelpful regulations in higher education

Posted on June 25, 2015

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 “Governing is about setting priorities and I voted for this legislation because it provides critical funding for medical research and innovation at the National Institutes of Health—as well as support for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and for our nation’s students.”– Lamar Alexander 

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 25 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, today voted for the fiscal year 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations legislation, which he said is an example of “the Senate at work,” as the ninth appropriations bill ready for consideration by the full Senate. The legislation was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee by a vote of 16 to 14. 

“Governing is about setting priorities and I voted for this legislation because it provides critical funding for medical research and innovation at the National Institutes of Health—as well as support for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and for our nation’s students,” said Alexander. “This legislation also limits overreach from the National Labor Relations Board—and prevents other unhelpful and burdensome regulations on our nation’s 6,000 colleges and universities.”

Alexander also voted today for the fiscal year 2016 Transportation, Housing & Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriations legislation, which he said helps set priorities on highway, transit, aviation, housing and community development programs.

The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations legislation includes funding for the following health priorities:

  • $32.084 billion for the National Institutes of Health.
  • $270 million for the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education program. 
  • $5.2 billion for Community Health Centers, including mandatory funds—a $200 million increase from fiscal year 2015 levels.
  • $2.585 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant program—a $15 million increase from fiscal year 2015 levels.
  • Funding for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support the Bioshield and the Strategic National Stockpile Program to ensure our nation is prepared for chemical, biological, nuclear, or radiological disasters.

The bill includes funding for the following education priorities:

  • $1.8 million for the Presidential and Congressional History Teaching Academies.
  • $273 million for charter schools—a $20 million increase from fiscal year 2015 levels.
  • The bill increases the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,915 – a nearly $150 increase from the previous year.

The bill also includes a 10 percent decrease in funding for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from fiscal year 2015 levels. No funding for the Affordable Care Act is included in this bill.

The bill puts crucial checks on the NLRB, including measures to:

  • Prohibit the NLRB from using funds to enforce its ambush elections rule, which was finalized in April, and is intended to speed up workplace union elections—which Alexander has said “forces a union election in as little as 11 days—before an employer and many employees even have a chance to figure out what is going on.” The provision included in the underlying bill would also prohibit the NLRB from forcing employers to turn over their employee’s personal information to union organizers without their employees’ consent.
  • Prohibit the NLRB from changing the current joint employer standard, which Alexander has said “could destroy a small business opportunity for more than 700,000 Americans.”
  • Prohibit the NLRB from using funds to authorize micro-unions, which Alexander has said, “divides workplaces and makes it harder and more expensive for employers to manage their workplace and do business.”

Another important labor-related provision included in the bill would:

  • Prohibit the Department of Labor from using funds to implement or enforce the proposed “fiduciary” rule, which expands advice standards and liabilities for investment advisers, but as written could limit access to professional investment advice for many Americans.

The bill addresses several burdensome or unhelpful regulations in higher education, including provisions to:

  • Prohibit funding to implement, administer or enforce the final regulation on gainful employment. Alexander said, “According to the Department of Education, if this rule were to take effect, it would kick 840,000 students enrolled in 1,800 programs out of their colleges. Second, the rule’s debt to earnings ratio doesn’t make sense. For example, if a University of Tennessee political science graduate gets their first job on Capitol Hill as a staff assistant, they wouldn’t earn enough money to be considered ‘gainfully employed’ by the Department of Education. And if every graduate in the University of Tennessee's political science program were to come work on Capitol Hill, then that program would be shut down. This third problem is that this rule is not fair because it doesn’t apply to degree programs at public universities like the University of Tennessee, or private, non-profit colleges. It only impacts degree programs at for-profit colleges which is only one sector of higher education.”
  • Prohibit funding to develop, publish, implement, administer or maintain a college ratings system. Alexander has said, “Trying to create yet another complicated, federal system—this time for grading our country's 6,000 colleges and universities—is every bit as impossible and unnecessary as it sounds and is sure to fall flat on its face.”

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