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AAU WEEKLY WRAP-UP

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June 13, 2014

CONTENTS

CONGRESSIONAL SCHEDULE NEW
BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS, AND TAX ISSUES
Senate Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Increases FY15 Funding for NIH, Student Aid
House FY15 Defense Appropriations Bill Would Cut Basic Research
--AAU Issues Statement Opposing Cuts in Defense Basic Research
House Subcommittee Passes FY15 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill
Business Coalition Holds Washington Fly-in to Bolster Federal Research Funding
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES
House Subcommittee Fails to Mark up Energy Research Authorization Bill UPDATED
House Science Subcommittees Hold Hearing on Administrative Burden on Research UPDATED
Senate Fails to Invoke Cloture on Student Aid Refinancing Bill
--Higher Education Associations Endorse Refinancing Bill

 

CONGRESSIONAL SCHEDULE NEW

Neither chamber met in regular session today. The Senate will reconvene on Monday, June 16, and will take up judicial nominations. Consideration of the FY15 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill is also scheduled for next week, with debate beginning as early as Monday.

The House is expected to reconvene on Tuesday, June 17, and may take up the FY15 Defense appropriations bill next week. House Republicans will also hold leadership elections on Thursday to replace House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA).


BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS, AND TAX ISSUES

SENATE LABOR-HHS-EDUCATION SUBCOMMITTEE INCREASES FY15 FUNDING FOR NIH, STUDENT AID

The FY15 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill marked up June 10 in the Senate L-HHS-Ed Subcommittee would provide $30.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase of $606 million above the FY14 level. Within that total, the bill would provide $100 million for the second year of the multi-agency Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, an increase of $60 million.

For student financial aid, the measure would maintain the discretionary portion of the maximum Pell grant award at $4,860 for the 2015-2016 school year. When combined with mandatory funding, this would raise the maximum award by an estimated $100, to $5,830. The bill also would increase funding for several campus-based student aid programs. (See updated AAU Department of Education chart here.)

For the campus-based aid programs, the Senate bill would:

--Raise funding for Federal Work Study by $35 million;

--Raise funding for TRIO by $8.4 million;

--Raise Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants by $15 million; and

--Raise funding for GearUP by $3 million.

In addition, the bill would fund Title VI International Education programs at $81.2 million, an increase of $9 million. Some $5 million of the increase is for study abroad. The bill also includes $75 million for the President’s First in the World initiative, with $20 million set aside for minority-serving institutions.

For the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) program, the bill would provide $31 million, an increase of $1.7 million.

The full committee markup of the bill originally scheduled for yesterday, June 12, has been postponed.

HOUSE FY15 DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS BILL WOULD CUT BASIC RESEARCH

The House Appropriations Committee on June 10 approved the FY15 Defense funding bill with a cut in defense basic research (6.1) programs of 6.4 percent and a cut in applied research (6.2) programs of 2.4 percent. As shown in AAU’s updated funding chart, basic research funding in the three branches and Defense–wide would receive less than their FY14 levels. Only the Defense-wide program would receive more than the Administration’s FY15 request, an added $10 million above that level.

--AAU Issues Statement Opposing Cuts to Defense Basic Research

AAU issued a statement on June 10 criticizing the reduced FY15 funding level for Defense basic research in the House bill, saying that it was “only a modest improvement” over the President’s proposed cut of 6.9 percent.

The association urged the full House and the Senate to reverse the funding cuts, noting, “DOD basic research has led to technologies ranging from radar to GPS, from the laser to stealth technology. Congress should approve this kind of cut only if it wishes to erode our armed forces’ future technological advantages. “

HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE PASSES FY15 ENERGY AND WATER APPROPRIATIONS BILL

The House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee approved its FY15 funding bill on June 10, with total funding of $34 billion. The allocation is $50 million below the FY14 level, but $327 million above the President’s request.

The measure would level fund the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science at $5.1 billion and level fund ARPA-E at $280 million. Details will be provided when the full Committee issues its report. The full committee markup is scheduled for Wednesday, June 18.

The Senate FY15 energy and water appropriations bill is scheduled for subcommittee markup on June 17 and full committee markup on June 19.

BUSINESS COALITION HOLDS WASHINGTON FLY-IN TO BOLSTER FEDERAL RESEARCH FUNDING

A delegation of business representatives from around the country, led by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, came to Washington, DC on June 9 to meet with legislators about the importance of strong, sustained support for federally funded research. The Chamber’s press release is available here.

Members of the Business for Federal Research coalition urged Washington lawmakers to support a strong innovation economy by providing steady growth above inflation for federal research programs across the government, beginning with the FY15 appropriations process. They cited such agencies as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, and Homeland Security.

The Business for Federal Research Funding is a national coalition of 57 chambers of commerce and business groups that was formed earlier this year through the leadership of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. The delegation that participated in the Washington, DC fly-in included participants from the CEO Council for Growth (PA, NJ, DE), the Dayton Development Coalition (OH), and the Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Centre County (PA) chambers, in addition to Greater Boston.


OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES

HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE FAILS TO MARK UP ENERGY RESEARCH AUTHORIZATION BILL UPDATED

The energy subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee met June 11 to mark up a bill to reauthorize DOE basic and applied research programs, but was unable to conduct substantive business. Following a difference of opinion between Republicans and Democrats over committee procedures and availability of the bill in advance of the markup, Subcommittee Chairman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) ended the session. The bill is now expected to bypass the subcommittee and go straight to full committee. Chairman Lummis’s follow-up statement is available here.

The measure, which covers just FY15, incorporates the EINSTEIN Act (which would reauthorize the DOE Office of Science) and reauthorization of R&D programs in the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE), Nuclear Energy, Fossil Energy, Energy Delivery & Energy Reliability, and ARPA-E. It would cut authorized funding by $232 million in FY15.

The bill would increase authorized funding for the DOE Office of Science by five percent to $5.3 billion, but would significantly cut authorized funding for ARPA-E and eliminate references to “climate” from that agency’s goals. The bill also would significantly cut authorized funding for biological and environmental research and for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Given that the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee has already approved FY15 funding for the energy research programs—including holding Office of Science funding at its FY14 level of $5.1 billion—it is not clear what impact the authorization bill would have on those funding levels.

House Science Subcommittees HOLD Hearing on Administrative Burden on Research UPDATED

Two subcommittees of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing yesterday, June 12, to examine the administrative workload for those conducting federally funded research.

Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun (R-GA) and Research and Technology Chairman Larry Bucshon (R-IN) both expressed support for efforts to eliminate red tape and harmonize and streamline requirements, while still preserving research accountability. Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY) noted that with an 80-percent rejection rate for federal research grants, scientists can spend significant time reapplying for grant funding. Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) added that both grant-writing and too-frequent progress reports delay progress in science, but he said it was important to ensure that researchers are not wasting the public’s money and are taking appropriate safeguards in their research, such as in protecting human subjects.

Witnesses for the hearing were Arthur Bienenstock, chair of the National Science Board’s task force on administrative burden; Susan Wyatt Sedwick, chair of the Federal Demonstration Partnership; Gina Lee-Glauser, Vice President for Research at Syracuse University; and Allison Lerner, Inspector General of the National Science Foundation.

Dr. Bienenstock said that a key recommendation of the National Science Board’s report on reducing investigators’ administrative workload, was to have research proposals focus only on the science and delay submission of budgets and mentoring plans until the projects had been approved for funding. He said the federal government should establish a permanent, high-level, inter-sector, and inter-agency committee with the goal of reducing the regulatory burden on universities.

Dr. Sedwick said that transparency and accountability are paramount and emphasized the need for a holistic approach to reform. Dr. Lee-Glauser said the competition for grants between equally qualified proposals creates a discouraging atmosphere for scientists. She added, in response to a question, that the administrative workload is a result of both governmental and institutional requirements, and that she would also like to streamline the latter. Dr. Lerner emphasized the value of effort reporting and audits to ensure accountability and to combat fraud, waste, and abuse, but she added that having multiple auditors for the same institution was unnecessary.

SENATE FAILS TO INVOKE CLOTURE ON STUDENT AID REFINANCING BILL

The Senate on June 11 took up the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act (S. 2432), but supporters failed to secure the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture. The vote was 56 to 38 in favor of cloture. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, issued a statement saying that reauthorization of the Higher Education Act would present another opportunity to help borrowers with existing student debt.

--Higher Education Associations Endorse Refinancing Bill

On June 9, a group of 12 higher education associations, including AAU, sent a letter to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the primary sponsor of S. 2432, expressing support for the bill.

The letter notes that the bill makes several important reforms to the federal student loan programs, and it offers some suggestions for improvement. The letter adds, “A greater commitment to students upfront, in the form of increased grant aid and reduced rates on new loans, would lower their costs and limit debt burden even more efficiently than refinancing existing debt.”

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