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AAU Weekly Wrap-up

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April 11, 2014

CONTENTS
CONGRESSIONAL SCHEDULE NEW
BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS, AND TAX ISSUES
House Approves FY15 Budget Resolution UPDATED
Student Aid Alliance Urges Opposition to House FY15 Budget Resolution
House Appropriations Committee Approves Two FY15 Funding Bills NEW
Senate Appropriations Committee Plans April 29 Hearing on Innovation Deficit UPDATED
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES
Senate Judiciary Committee Postpones Consideration of Patent Legislation UPDATED
Senate Approves DATA Act NEW
EXECUTIVE BRANCH
President of Colby College Nominated to Lead NEH NEW
H1-B Visa Cap for FY15 Reached in One Week

 

CONGRESSIONAL SCHEDULE NEW

The Senate met today with no legislative action; the House did not meet. Both chambers have adjourned for a two-week recess and will return to session on Monday, April 28.

 

BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS, AND TAX ISSUES

HOUSE APPROVES FY15 BUDGET RESOLUTION UPDATED

After three days of debate, the House on April 10 approved House Republicans’ FY15 budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 96) on a party line vote of 219 to 205. No Democrats voted in favor the resolution; 12 Republicans voted against it.

The measure, introduced by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), adheres to the FY15 discretionary spending caps and the wall between defense and nondefense discretionary spending set by last year’s budget agreement. However, the non-binding measure also proposes to cut federal spending by some $5.1 trillion over 10 years, significantly change major federal programs, and balance the budget over the decade. The House Budget Committee approved the package on April 2.

The House budget resolution stands no chance of receiving final congressional approval—Senate Democrats see no reason to approve a new budget resolution given last year’s budget agreement—but it lends support to efforts to significantly cut funding for specific research and education programs and to eliminate certain domestic agencies.

Among the provisions affecting universities, the Ryan budget proposes to freeze the maximum Pell Grant award for 10 years; eliminate the in-school interest subsidy on undergraduates’ direct subsidized federal loans; and eliminate administrative fees for campus-based student aid programs. It also, once again, proposes to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The budget resolution provides few specifics about research funding, but the accompanying report says the intention is to shift the focus of research at the National Science Foundation “back to basic research.” The report also suggests that certain research funded by the Department of Energy Office of Science, such as in the biological and environmental sciences, could be crowding out private investment.

Although the Ryan budget applies directly only to FY15, it proposes to modify sequestration, the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to resume after FY15. The measure would shift all of the cuts scheduled for Defense beginning in FY16 to the nondefense discretionary (NDD) side of the budget. This would cut NDD spending in FY16 from $492 billion to $450 billion, an 8.5 percent cut, reports the Committee for Education Funding, with a cut of 22 percent by the end of the 10-year period.

 

STUDENT AID ALLIANCE URGES OPPOSITION TO HOUSE FY15 BUDGET RESOLUTION UPDATED

The Student Aid Alliance sent a letter to all Members of the House on April 8 urging them to vote against House Republicans’ FY15 budget resolution because the measure would “make devastating cuts to college aid and access programs.” The letter said that proposed cuts in the Pell Grant program, student loan subsidies, and campus-based aid programs “are simply unsustainable if America aims to continue its leadership role in the world economy.”

 

HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE APPROVES TWO FY15 FUNDING BILLS NEW

The House Appropriations Committee approved two of its 12 appropriations bills for FY15 on April 9, furthering Chairman Harold Rogers’s (R-KY) goal of moving as many funding bills as possible this year under regular order. Both the FY15 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs and Legislative Branch appropriations bills were approved by voice vote. The Committee has not yet released its plan for dividing the FY15 discretionary spending total among the 12 subcommittees, referred to as the 302(b) allocations.

The Committee expects to mark up the FY15 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill in subcommittee on May 8, reports CQ Roll Call. The first subcommittee markup in the Senate Appropriations Committee is likely to be Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, around May 22.

Chairman Rogers hopes to report all 12 of the Committee’s FY15 funding bills before the July 4 recess. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) told the publication that she plans to move some of the Senate bills to the floor individually and package the rest into “minibuses.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has allocated four weeks of Senate floor time in June and July to consider appropriations bills.

 

SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE PLANS APRIL 29 HEARING ON INNOVATION DEFICIT UPDATE

The Senate Appropriations Committee plans to hold a hearing on April 29, titled, “Driving Innovation through Federal Investments.” The witnesses will include the President’s Science Advisor, as well as the leaders of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy, and DARPA.

Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski announced the full committee hearing during an April 2 hearing of the Labor-HHS-Appropriations Subcommittee. She said the purpose of the new hearing would be “to make sure that budget cuts and the possibility of future sequester do not dampen our standing as a world innovation leader.” She added that appropriators were concerned not only about the federal budget deficit, but also about the “innovation deficit.” (Senator Mikulski’s statement at the hearing can be viewed here at about 1:42:07.)

 

OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES

SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE POSTPONES CONSIDERATION OF PATENT LEGISLATION UPDATED

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced on April 9 that the Committee would postpone consideration of legislation to address abusive patent practices until after the two-week congressional recess. The chairman said in his statement, “We have made enormous progress, and we now have a broad bipartisan agreement in principle. This is a complex issue and we need additional time to draft the important provisions that have been the subject of the discussion.” He added that he would circulate his manager’s package on the day Congress returns from recess, with the goal of marking it up in committee that week.

The Committee had originally planned to take up the bill on April 3, but several Senators said during the session they would prefer delaying markup of the bill in order to get its elements right. The panel agreed to postpone the markup to April 8, but that has now been moved to the week of April 28.

The Senators had heard from a number of organization and university leaders expressing concern that the bill would address the problem of so-called “patent trolls” in an overly broad way that would threaten the ability of patent holders to legitimately enforce their patents and thus undermine the nation’s innovation capacity.

 

SENATE APPROVES DATA ACT NEW

The Senate on April 10 approved by unanimous consent the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (S. 944), a revised version of the measure approved by the House last November (H.R. 2061). Politico reports that the House leadership is likely to move the Senate-passed version quickly in order to send the measure to the President for signature.

AAU, APLU, and the Council on Governmental Relations have endorsed S. 944, and last November sent a letter to Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Tom Coburn (R-OK), leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, thanking them for their leadership in securing bipartisan support for the bill.

The DATA Act requires greater financial transparency in federal grant and contract awards, and aims to eliminate duplicative financial reporting requirements and reduce compliance costs. The bill also requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to establish federal government-wide data standards, and specifically mentions institutions of higher education as stakeholders with whom OMB should consult in identifying ways to streamline reporting requirements. It also calls on OMB to conduct a pilot program to that end.

The DATA Act was originally sponsored by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) in the Senate, and by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) in the House. Senators Carper and Coburn (R-OK) helped reach bipartisan agreement on the measure.

 

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

PRESIDENT OF COLBY COLLEGE NOMINATED TO LEAD NEH NEW

The White House announced on April 10 that the President has nominated Dr. William “Bro” Adams, President of Colby College, to serve as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). AAU issued a statement in support of Dr. Adams’s appointment.

Dr. Adams, who has been president of Colby since 2000, also served as president of Bucknell University, and held academic positions at Wesleyan University, Stanford University, Santa Clara University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the Colorado College and a doctoral degree in political philosophy from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

 

H1-B VISA CAP FOR FY15 REACHED IN ONE WEEK

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service announced on April 10 that it had received more than enough applications for H-1B visas to fill the statutory allotment for FY15. The filing period opened on April 1, and the agency was able to fill every slot through its lottery process by April 7. The agency received 172,000 visa petitions. The annual cap on H-1B visas is set at 65,000, with another 20,000 slots for foreign residents with a master's degree or higher from a U.S. university.

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