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AAU Weekly Wrap-up, April 12, 2019

  • Budget and Appropriations Update
    • House Abandons Floor Vote on “Investing for the People Act”
    • House Passes Resolution Setting Discretionary Spending at $1.3T for FY20
    • House Appropriators Plan FY20 Spending Markups
    • McConnell and Pelosi to Initiative Staff-Level Spending Caps Discussions
    • Federal Deficit Set to Pass $1.1T by September
  • Senate Appropriators Pledge Increased NIH Funding
  • Senate Education Committee Holds College Accountability Hearing
  • Senators Reintroduce Legislation to Promote Study Abroad
  • Senate Democrats Unveil Plan for Public Service Loan Forgiveness
  • Senate Confirms Bernhardt as Interior Secretary
  • House Passes “Save the Internet Act” to Protect Net Neutrality
  • Upcoming Events


House Democrats Tuesday abandoned a floor vote on H.R. 2021, the “Investing for the People Act of 2019,” after progressive Democrats opposed the defense spending figure. The measure would raise non-defense discretionary spending to $631 billion for FY20, a 5.7 percent increase above FY19, and defense spending to $664 billion for FY20, a 2.6 percent increase over FY19.

The House Tuesday passed a resolution establishing an overall limit of $1.3 trillion for discretionary spending, which is nearly the same level as FY19. House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) Wednesday said her committee will assume $733 billion for defense spending and $631 in non-defense as they craft and markup the 12 FY20 spending bills.

House Appropriators reportedly plan to start markups the week of April 29. Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK) has said the Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee could markup their bill as early as April 30, with a full committee markup tentatively planned for May 8. The House Armed Services Committee Wednesday announced its plans to markup the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act June 4 – 5.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Tuesday said he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) intend to launch budget negotiations at the staff level. They reportedly intend to negotiate a two-year deal to raise the caps and avoid $126 billion in automatic budget cuts. According to the Washington Post McConnell has said Pelosi and President Trump “both support trying to reach an agreement on a new spending pact for both the Pentagon and domestic programs.” However, President Trump last night Tweeted, “House Democrats want to negotiate a $2 TRILLION spending increase but can’t even pass their own plan. We can’t afford it anyway, and it’s not happening!”

Politico has more.

The federal debt limit was reinstated last month at $22 trillion. The federal government is currently using so-called “extraordinary measures” that allow for government spending and operations to continue. The current estimate is the government will have enough cash on hand and extraordinary measures to operate the government until sometime in the fall of 2019. Projected annual deficits and the debt limit are expected to be a key component of negotiations on raising the Budget Control Act’s discretionary spending caps for FY20 and FY21.

Fortune has more.

RESOURCES AVAILABLE: AAU and APLU Urge Congressional Leaders to Raise Discretionary Spending Caps for FY20 and 21


The Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Subcommittee yesterday held a hearing to review the administration’s FY20 budget request for the NIH, which would cut NIH funding by $4.9 billion. NIH director Francis Collins testified. During the hearing, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) told NIH officials he would not cut the NIH’s budget, saying “I think this is a great investment for America and for the world.”

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) mentioned his concerns about foreign influence on science and encouraged Collins to continue to educate the scientific community about the risks of China-sponsored espionage while at the same time upholding the culture of scientific collaboration. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) asked what the NIH was doing to “set the highest example of professional conduct” regarding sexual harassment. Murray also said she wanted to work with the NIH to encourage them to adopt the recommendations in the National Academies’ 2018 report on harassment and stop “deferring to grantees for enforcement,” and is considering including this language in the FY20 appropriations bill.


The Senate HELP Committee Wednesday held a hearing on highed education accountability. During the hearing, Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) said that the Education Department’s efforts to rewrite federal higher education rules within the context of negotiated rulemaking are against the law and go "directly against the HEA's history of a risk-based accountability framework.”

Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said that "we need a more effective measure of accountability" that "looks at whether students are actually repaying their loans." Alexander has proposed an accountability system that would assess each higher education program based on its student loan repayment rate. These comments refer to the recent consensus by a federal panel examining rules on accreditation and online learning.


Senate Democrats yesterday unveiled a plan to overhaul federal student loan forgiveness for public servants. The measure would amend the Higher Education Act to allow borrowers to receive partial loan forgiveness for half of their balance after five years of making payments, instead of the 10 years currently required. The legislation would also expand the criteria for qualification for public service loan forgiveness.

The administration has previously proposed eliminating student loan forgiveness for public service employees, but Congress has expressed its bipartisan support to the program. This expansion of the program is unlikely to gain Republican support in the Senate.


A bipartisan group of Senators yesterday reintroduced S. 1198, the “Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act,” which would expand access to study abroad opportunities for American college students by creating a grant program for institutions. Of the legislation, Senator Wicker said, “American students studying abroad are ambassadors for our values and ideals. When they return home, they bring the knowledge, language proficiency, and cultural understanding necessary to compete and build ties in our increasingly globalized economy.”


The Senate Wednesday confirmed David Bernhardt as the Secretary of the Department of the Interior. Bernhardt served as acting secretary since the departure of Ryan Zinke in December 2018, and previously served as the department’s deputy secretary.


The House Wednesday passed H.R. 1644, the “Save the Internet Act of 2019,” which would reinstate the rules that banned Internet Service Providers from blocking or slowing traffic on their networks and would prevent the FCC from removing these rules in the future. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) yesterday said the bill is “dead on arrival in the Senate,” and the president has already threatened to veto the legislation.

AAU and 19 other higher education associations last year filed an amicus brief arguing against the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order. The brief explained how the order, by allowing ISPs to block or slow traffic or charge for faster network speeds, would “erode the openness of the Internet and will impede the Internet’s operation as an essential platform for research, learning, and information-sharing.”

RESOURCE AVAILABLE: AAU filed comments with the FCC on net neutrality July 2017 and December 2017.



APRIL 30 CNSF EXHIBITION AND RECEPTION; 5:30 p.m. ET, 2043-2045 Rayburn House Office Building. Register by April 29 here. For more information, see the invitation here.

MAY 22 CNSR SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, & INFORMATION EXCHANGE (STIx) BRIEFING; 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. ET, 2325 Rayburn House Office Building. Register here. For more information, see invitation here. If interested in presenting a poster, email Aaron Kiesler.