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 AAU WEEKLY WRAP-UP  

January 31, 2014      

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CONTENTS   

CONGRESSIONAL SCHEDULE     NEW  

BUDGET & APPROPRIATIONS  

AAU Thanks Appropriators for Strong DOE Research Funding in FY14 Omnibus Bill   NEW  

President Addresses Research and Higher Education Issues in State of the Union Address

House Republicans May Agree to Clean Debt Ceiling Increase   NEW  

Appropriators Could Move Ahead on FY15 Spending Allocations    NEW  

OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES  

House Republican Leaders Unveil Immigration Reform Principles    NEW  

Senator Harkin to Focus on Accreditation for Accountability in HEA Reauthorization   NEW  

Higher Education Associations Weigh in on Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials   NEW   

 

 CONGRESSIONAL SCHEDULE   NEW   

The Senate did not meet today; the House met in pro forma session, with no votes.  The Senate on Monday, February 3, will begin consideration of the conference report for the farm bill (H.R. 2642), with a final voted expected on Tuesday.  (The House approved the farm bill conference report on January 29.)  The House schedule for next week has not yet been announced.    

 BUDGET & APPROPRIATIONS  

 AAU THANKS APPROPRIATORS FOR STRONG DOE RESEARCH FUNDING IN FY14 OMNIBUS BILL   NEW  

AAU sent a letter  to House and Senate appropriators on January 23 thanking them for the strong support for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science and Advanced Research Project Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) in the final FY14 omnibus appropriations bill.  

Along with detailing the  activities and programs that the FY14 funding level would enable the two offices to undertake, the letter noted that "DOE-funded research, scientific user facilities and education programs play a key role in strengthening the nation's scientific knowledge base and preparing the next generation of scientists and engineers."  It added that ARPA-E supports "high-risk, high-reward research at U.S. universities that has the potential to dramatically change how we produce and utilize energy in the future."    

AAU thanked  House and Senate appropriators for the overall FY14 omnibus appropriations bill in a January 17 letter. 

 

 PRESIDENT ADDRESSES RESEARCH AND HIGHER EDUCATION ISSUES IN STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS   

During President Obama's annual State of the Union address  on January 28, he discussed four issues of particular interest to research universities.  He urged Congress to restore funding for basic research because it drives innovation, called for patent litigation reform, encouraged Congress to approve comprehensive immigration reform, and cited ways in which the Administration is promoting greater college opportunity, college-cost information, and relief for those with high student debt. 

On research, the President said:  

"We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender. Federally funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. That's why Congress should undo the damage done by last year's cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery - whether it's vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material that's stronger than steel."  

He added that his Administration would launch six new university-based, high-technology manufacturing hubs this year to join the two existing hubs in Raleigh, North Carolina and Youngstown, Ohio, and he urged Congress to approve legislation to double the number of new hubs. 

On patent litigation reform, the President simply said, "…And let's pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation," rather than endorsing a specific bill.    

On immigration reform , he said: 

"Finally, if we're serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement-and fix our broken immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted, and I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: When people come here to fulfill their dreams-to study, invent, contribute to our culture-they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everybody. So let's get immigration reform done this year. Let's get it done. It's time." 

On college opportunity and student debt, he said: 

"...We're shaking up our system of higher education to give parents more information, and colleges more incentives to offer better value, so that no middle-class kid is priced out of a college education. We're offering millions the opportunity to cap their monthly student loan payments to ten percent of their income, and I want to work with Congress to see how we can help even more Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt. And I'm reaching out to some of America's leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential." 

The President also mentioned the recent White House Opportunity Summit, in which more than 100 higher education and private sector leaders pledged to undertake new efforts to improve college access and completion for low-income students, and he referenced the Administration's efforts to expand income-based repayment for student loans.

 

 HOUSE REPUBLICANS MAY AGREE TO CLEAN DEBT CEILING INCREASE   NEW   

Although the need to raise the federal debt ceiling has been widely viewed as the next budget battleground in Washington, news reports now indicate that House Republicans might agree to a clean debt ceiling increase, without demanding major policy concessions.  

The Republican leaders may avoid a confrontation, reports Politico , because of the increasing difficulty of their achieving success in such an effort.  The Republican caucus seems unlikely to be able to agree on a single set of proposed concessions, says the publication, while nearly all Democrats would support only a clean debt ceiling increase, and the President insists that he will not negotiate on the issue.  

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has told Congress that it must raise the debt ceiling by the end of February or risk default on the federal debt.  

 

 APPROPRIATORS COULD MOVE AHEAD ON FY15 SPENDING ALLOCATIONS   NEW   

Leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees are considering the possibility of "pre-conferencing" the spending levels for their 12 appropriations bills, reports CQ.com .  Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) are planning to get started on hearings, reports the publication, and could decide in the next few weeks if they will agree on the subcommittee allocations, called the 302(b)s.  

Ordinarily, the House and Senate appropriations committees independently divide the discretionary spending total among their respective subcommittees.  But a pre-conference agreement on subcommittee totals could speed approval of the FY15 appropriations bills, presumably easing negotiations over the final bills and avoiding the stopgap continuing resolutions that have characterized recent budget cycles.

The appropriators can consider moving ahead on the funding process because the legislation codifying the FY14 budget deal actually included an FY15 budget resolution .  Unless Congress replaces that budget resolution with another one before April 15, which is unlikely, appropriators may bring FY15 bills to the floor under the existing budget resolution after that date. 

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) has said he plans to advance a budget resolution this spring, reports CQ.com .  It remains unclear if Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) will do the same.  The FY15 discretionary spending cap is $1.0138 trillion, up by just $1.6 billion from the FY14 level of $1.0122 trillion.  (These funding figures are corrected from last week's publication.)  

 

 OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES   

 HOUSE REPUBLICAN LEADERS UNVEIL IMMIGRATION REFORM PRINCIPLES    NEW  

In a much-anticipated development, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) yesterday released a set of principles  for immigration reform that are being reviewed and debated today by his colleagues at the House Republicans' annual retreat.   As with previous statements from House Republican leaders, the document's preamble says that House Republicans want to fix the nation's immigration system by using a "step-by-step, common sense approach," and oppose going to conference on the comprehensive immigration bill approved  by the Senate last June.   The Senate approved the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013" ( S. 744 ) on June 27 by a vote of 68-32. 

The House Republicans' Standards for Immigration Reform also make clear that securing the nation's borders and enforcing U.S. immigration laws must occur before other aspects of immigration reform can be implemented.  These elements include: 

  • Mandatory use of a "workable electronic employment verification system,"
  • Implementation of a functioning entry and exit visa tracking system; and
  • Implementation of stringent requirements for those currently residing in the country illegally. 

As expected, the immigration reform standards address the need to provide a pathway to legalization and citizenship for the DREAM Act population.  Individuals who were brought to the United States as children and have either served in the military or attained a college degree would be eligible to become legal residents and ultimately citizens of the United States. 

The standards also highlight reforms in the legal immigration system.  After stressing the importance of the U.S. educating and employing the best and brightest minds in the world, the document adds , "visa and green card allocations need to reflect the needs of employers and the desire for these exceptional individuals to help grow the economy." 

 

 SENATOR HARKIN TO FOCUS ON ACCREDITATION FOR ACCOUNTABILITY IN HEA REAUTHORIZATION   NEW   

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said on January 29 that, among other priorities, he wants his committee to finish its hearings on reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) in May or June and develop a draft bill by the end of June.  While he is emphasizing transparency and accountability in the reauthorization, reports Politico , he has "serious concerns" about the Administration's proposed federal college rating system, and is concerned that the Administration wants to link financial aid to those ratings.  

Chairman Harkin, who is not seeking re-election this year, said he wants institutional accountability centered in the accreditation process, which he believes should become more transparent and take into account graduation rates, time to degree, and other outcomes for students.  

 

 HIGHER EDUCATION ASSOCIATIONS WEIGH IN ON FAIR USE OF COPYRIGHTED MATERIALS   NEW   

The House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet held a hearing on January 28 on the doctrine of fair use, which sets out guidelines for unlicensed use of copyrighted material.   A group of five higher education associations, led by the American Council on Education and including AAU, submitted a statement  to the committee.    

 

End of document

 

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