- Budget and Appropriations Update
- House Passes First Minibus Bill
- House Takes Up Second Minibus Bill, Plans Third
- Lawmakers, Administration Continue Budget Caps Negotiations
- Senate, House Make Progress on FY20 NDAA Bills
- House Committee Advances Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act
- AAU, Associations Encourage House Ways and Means Committee to Extend Tuition Deduction
- House Ways and Means Approves Provision to Repeal Parking Tax
- AAU, Associations Again Request Section 117 Guidance
- Administration Issues Executive Order to Limit Federal Advisory Committees
- AAU, Associations to House Leaders: Support Minibus Funding
- TFAI Urges Congress to Raise Budget Control Act Budget Caps
BUDGET AND APPROPRIATIONS UPDATE
The House on Wednesday advanced its first so-called “minibus” package, H.R. 2740. The measure includes $985 billion in FY20 appropriations for Defense, Labor-HHS-Ed, Energy-Water, and State-Foreign Operations. The measure includes an amendment that would block the administration’s restrictions on research involving fetal tissue.
The administration last week released a statement of policy opposing H.R. 2740, citing increases to deficits and national debt.
Also on Wednesday, the House began debate on its second five-bill minibus package, H.R. 3055. The measure will include $383.3 billion in FY20 appropriations for Commerce-Justice-Science, Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA, Interior-Environment, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development. The measure includes funding for three of AAU’s priority agencies: NSF, NASA, and NEH. The House reportedly will pass the legislation early next week.
According to PoliticoPro, House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has said the House will take up a third minibus package, which will include the rest of its FY20 appropriations measures.
Congressional leaders left a Wednesday meeting with administration officials without a deal to raise discretionary spending caps. After the meeting, the administration offered a “fallback” strategy in the absence of a deal to avoid sequestration cuts, offering to suspend current spending limits for a year. Lawmakers continue to press for a two-year deal to raise the Budget Control Act’s budget caps for FY20 and FY21. If Congress and the administration fail to reach a deal the administration supports, then FY20 and 21 discretionary spending will face cuts of $225 billion.
SENATE, HOUSE MAKE PROGRESS ON FY20 NDAA BILLS
The Senate Wednesday began consideration of the Armed Services Committee-approved version of the FY20 NDAA . As of now, 588 amendments have been submitted. AAU is closely monitoring these amendments and will communicate any action items to the CFR.
The House Armed Services Committee last week advanced the $733 billion FY20 National Defense Authorization Act. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) offered the “Securing American Science and Technology Act of 2019” as an amendment during the markup, and it was adopted by voice vote as part of a package of en bloc amendments. AAU, along with several other organizations, wrote to lawmakers in support of the Securing American Science and Technology Act.
RESOURCES AVAILABLE: Department of Defense Research Funding Table FY20
HOUSE COMMITTEE ADVANCES COMBATING SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN SCIENCE ACT
The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee yesterday advanced H.R. 36 , the “Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019.” The legislation directs the National Science Foundation to establish a research program to examine factors contributing to sexual harassment in the scientific workplace, and directs the Office of Science and Technology Policy to issue uniform policy guidance to federal science agencies about resources to prevent and respond to sexual harassment in the scientific workplace.
Prior to the hearing, AAU President Mary Sue Coleman sent a letter to Committee Chair Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) thanking them for their leadership on the measure. In the letter, President Coleman highlighted “the need for
the government, academia, and the broader science community to work together to combat the serious problem of sexual harassment in the scientific workplace.”
RESOURCES AVAILABLE : AAU Expanding Fight Against Sexual Misconduct on Campus
AAU, ASSOCIATIONS ENCOURAGE HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE TO EXTEND TUITION DEDUCTION, REPEAL PARKING TAX
AAU, together with six other associations, today sent a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) and Ranking Member Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) to encourage their support for an extension of a deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses which is included in upcoming tax extenders legislation. The deduction allows students to deduct up to $4,000 of allowable expenses from their taxable income, and the letter says, “its expiration last year means many students and families lost a valuable benefit that helps them finance a college education.” The letter also expresses support for the Committee’s provision to end the 21 percent unrelated business income tax on the transportation benefits provided by tax-exempt nonprofits.
HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS APPROVES PROVISION TO REPEAL PARKING TAX
The House Ways and Means Committee yesterday approved H.R. 3300, the “Economic Mobility Act.” The measure includes a provision to repeal a 21 percent tax on transportation-related fringe benefits for the employees of nonprofits, including free parking and commuting benefits included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The hearing was cancelled due to the House’s floor voting schedule, but witness testimony was included in the committee record, including testimony from Emory University Executive Vice President for Business and Administration Christopher L. Augostini, who highlighted the cost and administrative burden of the tax.
AAU, ASSOCIATIONS AGAIN REQUEST SECTION 117 GUIDANCE
AAU, together with ACE, APLU, and four other higher education associations, sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos including questions about the interpretation of Section 117 of the Higher Education Act. The organizations had previously sent a letter in January 2019 including these questions and in April met with Office of Federal Student Aid staff to discuss them, but have yet to receive a response from either effort. The department recently began investigating Section 117 compliance at higher education institutions, and the letter says without guidance, “it is nearly impossible to ensure compliance.”
ADMINISTRATION ISSUES EXECUTIVE ORDER TO LIMIT FEDERAL ADVISORY COMMITTEES
President Trump last week issued the “Executive Order on Evaluating and Improving the Utility of Federal Advisory Committees.” The order directs federal agencies by September to cut by one-third the number of advisory committees created under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. According to the General Services Administration, there are approximately 1,000 federal advisory committees. The order will eventually cap the total number of committees at 350, and bars agencies from establishing new committees without waivers from the Office of Management and Budget.
The order states: “… this order does not apply to a merit review panel or advisory committee whose primary purpose is to provide scientific expertise to support agencies making decisions related to the safety or efficacy of products to be marketed to American consumers.” AAU is seeking information about this language and how it applies to NSF, NIH, and other federal agencies’ merit review panels and the potential impacts to science- and higher education-related advisory committees.
AAU, ASSOCIATIONS TO CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS: SUPPORT MINIBUS FUNDING
AAU, together with 32 higher education associations, today sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to express strong support for H.R. 2740, the minibus of FY20 appropriations for Defense, Labor-HHS-Ed, Energy-Water, and State-Foreign Operations. The letter says the minibus includes important investments in programs which have been cut or under-funded for the last decade, including financial aid, scientific research, institutional support, and workforce skills training programs. These investments would increase the accessibility and affordability of higher education, strengthen research which improves quality of life for all Americans, and enable students to pursue multiple pathways to a career while enhancing the U.S. economy.
TFAI URGES CONGRESS TO RAISE BUDGET CONTROL ACT BUDGET CAPS
The Task Force on American Innovation, of which AAU is a member, last week sent a letter to congressional leaders urging the passage of a bipartisan, bicameral budget agreement that will raise the FY20 and FY21 defense and non-defense discretionary spending caps. The letter says that lifting the caps will “enable sustained, robust federal funding for scientific and engineering research and development (R&D), which is critical to ensuring America’s national security, economic prosperity and global leadership in science, technology and innovation."