WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate failed last year to take up a House-passed bill reauthorizing a program to preserve and restore historically black colleges and universities. It was stymied by a packed legislative calendar and general lack of urgency to advance it.
This time around the legislation might meet a smoother fate.
President Donald Trump's attempts to make inroads with black voters by championing HBCUs could improve the chances of U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn's bill becoming law.
The South Carolina Democrat's measure — identical to his bill that passed the House last fall — easily passed the House a second time on Tuesday.
If signed into law, it would authorize $10 million a year for the next seven years for the HBCU Historic Preservation Program, which grew out of a Government Accountability Office report ordered by the Congressional Black Caucus in 1998.
That report surveyed 712 historic buildings and sites on HBCU campuses and determined there were $755 million in repairs needed.
Since that time, 59 HBCUs in 20 states have benefited from the preservation program, including on the campuses of Allen University, Claflin University, Voorhees College and Benedict College in South Carolina, along with South Carolina State University, Clyburn's alma mater.
Money for the program has not been authorized since the preservation program officially lapsed in 2009.
Clyburn, the House assistant Democratic leader and most senior black lawmaker in Congress, noted the catch-all spending bill passed earlier this year to float federal operations through the remainder of fiscal year 2017 included $4 million for the HBCU preservation program.
His bill would "continue progress" in those efforts, he said.