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AAU Weekly Wrap-up, September 29, 2017


  • Mary Sue’s Desk: Curiosity Killed the Cancer-Causing Glue
  • Budget and Tax Update
  • Travel Ban Update
  • Associations Urge Congressional Leaders to Act on Perkins Loan Legislation
  • Associations Express Concerns with Senate Health Care Legislation
  • Associations File Comments on Labor Department Overtime Rule 


AAU President Mary Sue Coleman today released her second blog, titled “Curiosity Killed the Cancer-Causing Glue,” in which she describes the curiosity-driven research of Kaichang Li, a 2017 Golden Goose Award winner. His is one of many examples of seemingly obscure federally funded research that has gone on to have tremendous societal and economic impact.

Share her blog on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. 


The Senate today unveiled its FY18 budget resolution, which adheres to Budget Control Act (BCA) spending caps of $549 billion for base defense and $516 billion for nondefense discretionary spending. Tax reconciliation instructions allow the Senate Finance Committee to reduce revenues and change outlays to increase the deficit up to $1.5 trillion over a decade. For cost savings, the Senate budget directs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to save $1 billion over ten years. The budget gives the Senate Finance Committee until November 13 to draft tax reform legislation. The Senate Budget Committee scheduled a two-day markup for October 4 and 5.
Yesterday, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said the House will next week take up its budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 71). The House budget exceeds the defense BCA cap by providing $621.5 in base defense spending and sets nondefense discretionary spending at $511 billion, $5 billion below the FY18 BCA cap. The budget resolution also includes reconciliation instructions to 11 House committees to achieve at least $203 billion in mandatory savings and reforms.
The pivot to tax reform comes after the administration and Republican congressional leaders on Wednesday released the “Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code,” with the stated goals of “broadening the tax base, closing loopholes, and growing the economy.” The nine-page document proposes creating three tax brackets (instead of the existing seven), lowering the top marginal income tax rate, and roughly doubling the standard deduction. Doubling the standard deduction would decrease the number of itemizers, which could reduce charitable giving incentives. The plan also states that it retains the charitable giving deduction and higher education tax benefits, presumably including provisions such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit. 


The administration on Sunday night announced new restrictions on visitors from eight countries, expanding the preexisting travel ban, which was due to expire. Three nations were added to the list of countries whose citizens will face restrictions: Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela. Sudan has been removed from the list of countries initially included at the beginning of the year. Homeland Security officials say the updated ban will take effect October 18 and will not affect anyone who already holds a U.S. visa. Details of the restrictions vary by country and are outlined here via FAQ. AAU President Mary Sue Coleman issued a statement in response.
Last week, AAU joined 29 other higher education associations in an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the administration’s second attempt to ban refugees and immigrants from several majority-Muslim countries. The brief cautions that if not reversed, the executive order will have detrimental effects on the global exchange of ideas and impair the ability of educational institutions to attract international talent.
On Monday evening, the Supreme Court canceled oral arguments, which were initially scheduled for October 10.


AAU joined 21 other higher education associations a letter Wednesday to urge House and Senate leadership to bring the Perkins Loan Extension Act (H.R. 2482) to the floor for a vote this week. The letter notes this legislation, which would provide a two-year extension to the soon-to-expire Perkins Loan program, enjoys strong bipartisan support. Extending the program past its September 30 expiration, the letter argues, would ensure sufficient time for Congress to address the program through Higher Education Act reauthorization. 


AAU joined 19 other higher education associations in a letter on Tuesday to Senate leadership to express concerns with the American Health Care Act of 2017 (H.R. 1628), crafted by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Ron Johnson (R-WI). The letter notes the proposed changes to Medicaid financing and the proposed repeal of Medicaid expansion would significantly impact state budgets, forcing state leaders to make harmful higher education funding decisions. In addition, the letter notes the proposed Medicaid cuts and individual market coverage changes would have adverse impacts on academic medicine and teaching hospitals, including increases in uncompensated care costs, making it more difficult to invest in research and training. The letter closes by urging the leaders to address the community’s concerns and “fix current problems without creating new ones.”
The Senate has removed the legislation from its calendar for consideration. 


On Monday, AAU joined several other higher education associations in a comment letter responding to a July 26 Department of Labor (DOL) Request for Information (RFI) regarding its so-called overtime rule. The RFI states that DOL has “decided not to advocate for the specific salary level ($913 per week) set in the [2016 Rule] at this time and intends to undertake further rulemaking to determine what the salary level should be.” The higher education community filed extensive comments on the proposed rule in 2015 and agreed that it was time to raise the salary threshold, however, an increase of 113 percent is too high. At a minimum, the community argued, the salary threshold increase should be phased in over time. The letter closes by asking the Department to reaffirm guidance for higher education institutions issued as part of the 2016 Rule and release the guidance on extension agents as soon as possible. 

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