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AAU Weekly Wrap-up, July 21, 2017


  • FY18 Appropriations Update
    • House to Vote on Mini-Omnibus Bill Next Week
    • House Appropriators Advance Labor-HHS-Education Bill
    • Senate Appropriators Approve Energy and Water, Agriculture Spending Bills
    • Senate Appropriators Set Funding Allocations
  • FY18 Budget Update
    • House Budget Committee Passes FY18 Budget Resolution
    • Coalitions Urge Congress to Pass Bipartisan Budget Agreement
  • Higher Education Community Expresses Concerns with Proposed Changes to Student and Exchange Visitor Program
  • Senators Introduce Bipartisan Dream Act
  • Associations Express Support for Veterans Education Bills
  • Associations Oppose Efforts to Rescind Net Neutrality Rules
  • Coalitions Submit Comments to Senate Finance Committee on Tax Reform


The House Appropriation Committee continued its work to approve all 12 of its FY18 spending measures, including passage of the labor-hhs-education spending bill. Senate Appropriators advanced both the FY18 energy and water and agriculture appropriations bills, and approved the funding allocations for FY18.

  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said Thursday the House will next week take up a “minibus” bill, H.R. 3219, which includes four appropriations measures that cover approximately 66 percent of discretionary spending. Included in the package are both the FY18 energy and water, and the defense spending bills. The minibus could be on the House floor as early as July 26.
  • The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday advanced its FY18 labor-hhs-education spending bill, which gives the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a $1.1 billion boost and flat-funds most student aid programs. The bill also contains a provision barring deviation from current practices for the reimbursement of NIH facilities and administrative costs. Regarding student aid, it maintains the Pell Grant maximum award at $5,920 but rescinds $3.3 billion in unobligated carryover funds for outside use. Federal work study, the supplemental educational opportunity grant, and the Institute for Education Sciences receive flat-funding at $990 million, $733 million, and $605 million, respectively. Title VI international education programs are cut by $7 million to $65 million.
  • Also on Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved both the FY18 energy and water and agriculture appropriations bills. The FY18 Senate energy and water bill funds the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science at $5.55 billion, an increase of $158 million above FY17, and funds Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) at $330 million, an increase of $24 million. The House FY18 energy and water bill eliminates ARPA-E and flat-funds DOE Office of Science at $5.39 billion. Both the House and Senate FY18 agriculture spending bills flat-fund AFRI at $375 million.
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved its FY18 302(b) funding allocations, which establish the cap on spending for each of the appropriations bills. Overall, the committee funding guidance totals $1.07 trillion in base funding – $551 billion for defense and $518.5 billion for non-defense – the same levels enacted for FY17. Appropriations bills that see an increased allocation include energy and water ($38.4 billion, an increase of $629 million), and labor-hhs-education ($164.1 billion, an increase of $3 billion). Appropriations bills that see a reduced allocation include agriculture ($20.5 billion, a decrease of $352 million), and commerce-justice-science ($53.4 billion, a decrease of $3.2 billion). The allocation for defense base funding is the same as FY17 ($513.1 billion).

View AAU’s FY18 Funding Priorities table here.


This week, the House Budget Committee released its FY18 budget resolution, which sets topline funding levels for defense and non-defense discretionary programs, and includes instructions for a tax overhaul. Multiple coalitions wrote Congressional leaders to urge they reach a bipartisan budget deal to increase the FY18 BCA caps for defense and non-defense discretionary spending.

  • On Tuesday, the House Budget Committee unveiled its FY18 budget resolution, setting the stage for a massive tax and spending cut bill. Under the plan, Building a Better America, defense spending would steadily increase over a ten-year period while non-defense discretionary spending would decline dramatically to $424 billion – a 23.5 percent decrease from the current spending level. Committees would have until October 6 to send legislative text on its spending cuts to the Budget Committee. For FY18, non-defense discretionary spending would be set $5 billion below the BCA cap to $511 billion and defense discretionary spending would increase by $ 72.5 billion to $621.5 billion.
  • Also on Tuesday, a group of 16 coalitions, including the Coalition for National Science Funding, and the Coalition for National Security Research, sent a letter urging Congressional leaders to reach a budget agreement that increases the spending caps for both defense and non-defense discretionary programs. The letter notes that the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which raised the Budget Control Act (BCA) caps for FY16 and FY17, demonstrated Congress’ commitment to the nation’s scientific enterprise and encourages Congress to reaffirm this commitment by passing a bipartisan, bicameral budget agreement.


AAU on Monday joined 10 organizations in a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly regarding a July 10 Washington Post article that suggests the Administration is considering a proposal that would require foreign students to reapply for permission to stay in the U.S. every year. This would result in significant changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. The letter cautions that such a proposal could force applicants to pursue their studies elsewhere, dramatically affecting our ability to attract foreign talent.


Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) on Tuesday announced the introduction of The Dream Act of 2017, which would allow a select group of young immigrant students – commonly referred to as “Dreamers” – to earn lawful permanent residence, and access to path towards citizenship. An estimated 787,000 Dreamers currently receive deportation relief and work permits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but the Administration has said it may not defend DACA in future legal battles.


On Wednesday, AAU joined five other higher education associations in a letter expressing support for the “Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017” (H.R. 3218), which would improve and expand educational benefits for veterans and their families. The letter notes the legislation “recognizes the contributions of our veterans and provides the resources necessary for them to succeed in higher education.” The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved the measure Wednesday by unanimous voice vote. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said lawmakers intend to pass the bill before the August recess. An identical measure has been introduced in the Senate, S. 1598, and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee staff has said it will mark up the bill next Wednesday, July 26.

Last Friday, six higher education associations, including AAU, sent a letter expressing their support for the Veterans Education Empowerment Act of 2017. The bill is modeled after the Centers of Excellence for Veteran Student Success Program, and will authorize a competitive grant program in the Department of Veterans Affairs to support the creation of veteran student centers on campus. The letter thanks sponsor Representative Lois Frankel (D-FL) for her efforts to help veteran students achieve their higher education goals.


AAU on Tuesday joined several higher education and library associations in a comment letter opposing efforts to rescind the current network neutrality rules. The letter expresses concern that unless the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) maintains strong, enforceable network neutrality rules, Internet access providers will have the financial incentive to block, degrade or prioritize the transmission of some at the expense of others. It emphasizes that preserving an open Internet is essential for research, education, the free flow of information, and other public interests served by universities and libraries. These comments reinforce previous association statements on network neutrality.


On Monday, 19 higher education associations, including AAU, submitted comments to the Senate Finance Committee in response to a June 16 call for stakeholder feedback on comprehensive tax reform. The letter remarks on several tax provisions important to college students, families and institutions, and charitable tax incentives, including the preservation of the charitable tax deduction. It also suggests revisions to specific student tax credits and tuition assistance benefits that could be simplified or made more efficient and effective in the future.

Last Friday, the Coalition to Preserve Employer-Provided Education Assistance, of which AAU is  a member, also submitted comments in response to the Senate Finance Committee’s June 16 request. The comment letter expresses support for strengthening and maintaining IRC Sec. 127, employer-provided education assistance, in any upcoming tax package. Specifically, the letter requests the committee consider increasing the current benefit of $5,250, which has not increased in 40 years.

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