An overview of relevant House and Senate committee hearings and markups on the schedule this week:
TUESDAY, June 18
Fiscal 2014 Appropriations: Agriculture
10 am, 192 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Fiscal 2014 Budget: Department of Education
Full Committee Hearing
10:30 am, 608 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Fiscal 2014 Appropriations: Energy and Water Development
10:30 am, 2362-B Rayburn House Office Building
House Science, Space, and Technology
DOE Science and Technology Agenda
Full Committee Hearing
10:15 am, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building
WEDNESDAY, June 19
Fiscal 2014 Appropriations: Transportation-HUD
11 am, 2358-A Rayburn House Office Building
THURSDAY, June 20
House Veterans’ Affairs
Education for Veterans at Higher Education Institutions
10 am, 334 Cannon House Office Building
This week, the House will consider its version of the Farm Bill (HR 1947) to authorize USDA programs for five years. The controversial measure is expected to be considered for the bulk of the week.
Where the Senate passed a bipartisan Farm Bill earlier this year by 66–27, with 18 Republicans voting in favor, the House measure — and the House generally being more polarized — is facing a much more controversial bill. Provisions of contention include:
- the bill’s new dairy program that would provide insurance to milk producers and includes a supply management plan to reduce price-depressing dairy surpluses,
- a limit of $40,000 per person per year in premium subsidies or an elimination of premium subsidies to farmers with an adjusted gross income of more than $250,000,
- $20.5 billion in reductions over 10 years to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program, and
- changes to the crop insurance program.
Like the Senate bill, the House measure would end $5 billion a year in direct payments made to farmers and landowners based on the past crop production history of qualifying acres. Part of the savings from ending direct payments would be used to create a hybrid of insurance-like plans and reference, or target, prices to help farmers protect against price drops. How this program is changed is controversial to both environmental and fiscal conservative groups.
No farm bill would mean that there are no changes to the SNAP and other programs that conservatives believe should be changed. Thus Republican leadership are encouraging Members to vote for the reauthorization despite any flaws with the bill.
As previously discussed, the House reauthorization includes most of higher education’s many requests reauthorization requests for the NIFA. It House bill also provides mandatory funds for three programs administered by NIFA. Although major floor amendments to the Research and Extension Title (Title VII) of the bill are not expected at this time, it is unlikely there will be no amendment to the Research Title.
UW’s College of the Environment receives USDA and NIFA funds, and the Office of Federal Relations is tracking the progress of the Farm Bill closely.
Congress has just two weeks before the July 4th recess week to tackle several major legislative issues. This week, the House will try to pass a five-year farm bill that contains controversial dairy policies and cuts to food stamps. It will also revive the abortion debate over a bill to ban certain abortions. In the Senate, appropriators will decide allocation levels for their twelve FY14 spending bills, and the full Senate will look for a compromise on border security that could improve prospects for immigration reform legislation (S 744).
Both the House and Senate will also continue to debate the best way to deal with student loan interest rates and the rates for subsidized Stafford student loans is scheduled to increase from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1st. There are several proposals out there but none that have the support necessary to get approval in both chambers.
The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is currently accepting applications for its Fall 2013 Student Volunteer Program. The application deadline is 11:59pm EST Friday, June 28th. Students who are U.S. citizens and who will be actively enrolled during the Fall 2013 semester are welcome to apply.
Click here for more information about OSTP and application instructions.
The Office of Science and Technology Policy advises the President on the effects of science and technology on domestic and international affairs. The office serves as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans and programs of the Federal Government.
About the Student Volunteer Program
Student Volunteers are accepted for one of three annual terms (Spring, Summer, or Fall), each of which last no more than 90 days. While these positions are without compensation, the assignments provide educational enrichment, practical work experience, and network opportunities with other individuals in the science and technology policy arena.
For questions, please contact Rebecca Grimm email@example.com.
House Democrats are attempting to force a floor vote on a two-year extension of the current interest rate for federally subsidized student loans and avert a scheduled doubling of the rate on July 1, 2013.
They hope to file a discharge petition if they get the support of a majority of members. This would force a vote on a HR 1595 that would freeze the current 3.4 percent interest rate on the subsidized portion of Stafford loans for two years while Congress negotiates a permanent solution. It’s similar to a Senate bill (S 953) that last week fell short of the 60-vote threshold needed for an up-or-down floor vote in that chamber.
House Republicans have declined to bring HR 1595 up for consideration and assert that they already passed their own plan (HR 1911) that would shift the fixed rate to one tied to the 10-year Treasury bill plus 2.5 percent. The White House has threatened a veto of that measure, saying it could end up costing borrowers more and allow the rate to fluctuate for the life of the loan.
With just 16 days before the rate hike is set to begin, we are tracking the discharge petition to see how the WA state delegation members respond. As of yesterday, it had 150 signatures including those from Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-1st), Denny Heck (D-10th), Derek Kilmer (D-6th), and Jim McDermott (D-7th).
The House will begin its work on the HR 1960, the National Defense Authorization Bill (NDAA) today. Consideration of the measure is expected to go through tomorrow. The NDAA is the yearly authorization bill that determines military priorities for agencies responsible for our national defense. The legislation establishes funding levels, and sets the policies under which money will be spent.
The bill authorizes $638.4 billion for the Pentagon and defense-related programs for FY 2014, including $85.8 billion for the war in Afghanistan and other overseas contingency activities. The bill’s authorization for regular defense funding is roughly equal to the president’s request but about $50 billion more than the projected post-sequestration cap for defense pursuant to the 2011 Budget Control Act. It authorizes $8 billion for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and requires the development of a new missile-defense site on the East Coast that the Pentagon does not want. It also bars the use of funds for planning any future rounds of military base closings, authorizes funds for new construction at the Guantánamo Bay detention center that the president wants to close and establishes new procedures to combat sexual assault in the military.
On June 11th, the White House issued a veto threat of the measure as it was currently written. The House Armed Services Committee passed the legislation on June 5th.
The House Rules Committee has approved a structured rule on Wednesday, which limits the amount of amendments that can be considered during the Floor debate. There will be 172 amendments (70 Republican, 68 Democratic, and 38 bipartisan) considered for 10 minutes each. Nearly 300 amendments were submitted to the House Rules committee to be offered during the Floor debate. The rule makes in order a number of amendments which address controversial proposals, ranging from the Guantánamo Bay detention center to overall spending levels that dramatically exceed the caps set by sequestration.
The House will begin consideration at noon today. Rep. Adam Smith (WA) is the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee and will manage the bill for the Democrats.
The Office of Federal Relations will continue to monitor the progress of the bill.
Today, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report on the impacts and costs of the student loan interest rate going from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. The CBO analyzes the impact to Direct (subsidized and unsubsidized) and PLUS loans. The report also broadly touches on the impacts to students and the nation if student loans have an adjustable interest rate.
A copy of the CBO report can be found here.
The CBO is a nonpartisan agency created to produce independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process.
The Office of Federal Relations is continuing to monitor this issue and will provide updates as available.
Today in the Senate: The chamber meets this morning to continue debating a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws (S 744).
Today in the House: The chamber is scheduled to begin general debate on a $638.4 billion defense authorization bill (HR 1960) for FY14 that includes funding and/or language for three of UW’s requests: (1) $15 million for awards to academic medical institutions for reconstructive transplants; (2) $15 million for Navy research vessels (to help with the RV Tommy Thompson); and (3) language promoting the National Marine Renewable Energy Centers for ocean renewable energy demonstration activities at or near DOD facilities (tidal energy).
FY14 Appropriations Update: Senate Republican appropriators appear ready to oppose any measures written by Democrats that exceed the discretionary spending cap set by the 2011 deficit reduction law. Next week, they will likely reject a plan from Appropriations Chairwoman Mikulski (D-MD) that would divide up $1.058 trillion among the committee’s dozen annual bills. The Senate plan is about $91 billion higher than the overall level set by House Republicans. Ironically, both plans would trigger a new round of across-the-board spending reductions under sequester because they violate the caps set by the 2011 law (PL 111-25). But the House GOP plan busts the caps in defense and other security measures while the Senate is expected to bust the caps in both defense and non-defense (domestic) bills. All of this is leading to a big fight on spending, which will certainly culminate in a continuing resolution (CR) before the federal fiscal year ends September 30th.
The Senate just voted 82-15 to move forward on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. This sets the stage for weeks of debate and considering amendments on a bill that would secure the nation’s borders, enhance the visa system, and set in place a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
This evening, the Senate passed S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013, by a vote of 66 to 27. Eighteen Republican Senators voted for the measure. Last Thursday, the Senate voted 75 to 22 to invoke cloture (limit further debate) on the bill and members of the Senate unanimously agreed that the only amendment remaining in order to the bill would be an amendment regarding rural broadband internet access. Although there were 260 amendments filed to the bill, only a few dozen were actually considered. Thursday’s agreement also precluded Democrats and Republicans from crafting a package of amendments that could be made to the bill prior to final passage.
Title VII of bill, as passed by the Senate this evening, includes most of the reauthorizations and programmatic “tweaks” higher education sought with respect to research, extension, and higher education programs administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). It also includes mandatory funding (not subject to annual appropriations) for five NIFA-administered programs and establishes a new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research with $200 million in mandatory funds for this new 501(c)(3) organization.
For additional information about the Senate bill, see: www.land-grant.org/reports/2013/CLP/05-16.htm
The House is expected to consider H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, later this month. Both House Major Leader Eric Cantor and Speaker John Boehner have expressed their willingness to bring the Farm Bill to the floor under a rule that will permit spirited debate. The Speaker issued a news release today, encouraging House members to move the bill ahead saying: “If you have ideas on how to make the bill better, bring them forward. Let’s have the debate, and let’s vote on them.”
The House bill includes most of higher education’s many requests reauthorization requests for the NIFA. It House bill also provides mandatory funds for three programs administered by NIFA. Although major floor amendments to the Research and Extension Title (Title VII) of the bill are not expected at this time, the situation is extremely fluid. There are additional provisions involving NIFA-related proposals (as agreed upon by the BAA’s Committee on Legislation and Policy) that are being monitored for inclusion on the floor or later in the process depending on the situation.
UW’s College of the Environment receives NIFA funds and the Office of Federal Relations is tracking the progress of the Farm Bill closely.