Senate Negotiators Slog Through Higher Education Act Updates

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DON’T EXPECT TO SEE A draft anytime soon of the Higher Education Act rewrite that Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray have been negotiating for the last three months.

The chairman and ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, still have their teams huddling, according to committee staff, but while progress is being made and optimism abounds, a number of outstanding issues remain to get through. The problem is, they’re the biggest issues that make up the heart of the overhaul – accountability, student loan repayments and campus safety, to name just a few.

“Both Chairman Alexander and ranking member Murray outlined competing priorities for HEA and where they might like to go,” Craig Lindwarm, vice president of congressional and governmental affairs for the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, says. “No one would ever dismiss the ability of the chairman and ranking member to work out a deal. They’ve done it before and they are certainly capable of doing it again. But there are certainly differences.”

The two have already let lapse Alexander’s self-imposed deadline of unveiling a draft of the bipartisan proposal by the end of May. The four-term Republican senator from Tennessee, who is not seeking re-election in 2020, previously outlined an ambitious timeline that included getting the bill to the floor of the Senate before members of Congress break for summer recess – a proposal that many congressional onlookers now say seems doomed with recess just eight weeks away.

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