A roundup of bills introduced in the last week that may be of interest to the higher education community:
S. 514: A bill to amend Title 38, United States Code, to provide additional educational assistance to veterans pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering, math, or an area that leads to employment in a high-demand occupation.
Sponsor: Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Introduced: 3/11/2013 Last Major Action: Referred to Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Cosponsors: 0
H.R. 1100: A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to improve mental and behavioral health services on college campuses.
Sponsor: Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) Introduced: 3/12/2013 Last Major Action: Referred to House Committees on Energy & Commerce and Education and the Workforce Cosponsors: 12
H.R. 1178: A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to authorize grants for graduate medical education partnerships in states with a low physician-resident-to-general-population ratio.
Sponsor: Kathy Castor (D-FL) Introduced: 3/14/2013 Last Major Action: Referred to House Committee on Energy and Commerce Cosponsors: 0
H.R. 1227: A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to authorize certain aliens who have earned a Ph.D. degree from a United States institution of higher education in a field of science, technology, engineering or mathematics to be admitted for permanent residence and to be exempted from the numerical limitations on H-1B nonimmigrants (STAPLE ACT).
Sponsor: Erik Paulsen (R-MN) Introduced: 3/15/2013 Last Major Action: Referred to House Committee on the Judiciary Cosponsors: 3
Paulsen Press Release
H.R. 1271: A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow employers a credit against income tax as an incentive to partner with educational institutions to provide skills training for students (Job Skills for America’s Students Act).
Sponsor: Mark Takano (D-CA) Introduced: 3/19/2013 Last Major Action: Referred to Committee on Ways and Means Cosponsors: 0
Takano Press Release
S. 646: A bill to create the National Endowment for the Oceans to promote the protection and conservation of United States ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems.
Sponsor: Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) Introduced: 3/21/2013 Last Major Action: Referred to Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Cosponsors: 3 (including Senator Maria Cantwell)
The full text of these bills can be found by searching for their respective bill number at thomas.loc.gov
The month of March has been a busy one in Washington, D.C. On March 1st sequestration went into effect after Congress failed to come to agreement on long-term deficit reduction, and last week both the House and Senate approved their respective budget resolutions that address overall spending for federal government for FY 2014. And, finally, Congress took action on a continuing resolution to fund the federal government for the remaining six months of FY 2013, just a week before the current CR expires on March 27th. Congress is now enjoying a two-week recess period before returning to work on April 8th, the same day that President Obama is to release his FY 2014 budget request, two months later than usual because of all of the fiscal uncertainty in Congress.
This Federal Update will focus on these fiscal issues, and also take a look ahead at the congressional agenda for spring. (more…)
Early this morning, the Senate passed its first budget in four years by a vote of 50 to 49 after a marathon session that began Friday morning and included 562 filed amendments. The Senate approved a budget resolution that relies heavily on $975 billion in new tax revenue to stabilize the growth of the national debt within the next ten years. The Senate budget contains and equal amount of spending cuts ($975 billion), and also turns off $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts scheduled over nine years (sequestration).
But while the Senate plan would bring the deficit down to only $566 billion by 2023, it does not balance like the budget plan approved by the House earlier this week. The House plan bring government taxes and spending into balance by 2023 with cuts to domestic programs below the sequestration levels and mandates significant changes to Medicare and the tax code. Negotiations between the two chambers to reconcile the different budget plans will likely be fruitless as the two plans are wildly different.
Congress now begins a two-week recess period, returning to work on Monday, April 8th. At that time, the Senate is expected to take up controversial gun legislation and executive nominations. The gun legislation will likely include background checks, gun-trafficking language, and school safety provisions. The House returns to work Tuesday, April 9th.
One of the notable provisions included in the year long CR (HR 933) was the restoration to Tuition Assistance (TA) programs for active duty service members. Previously this month, the Army and the Marine Corps decided not to continue their respective TA programs after March 8, 2013 because of cuts from the sequester. An amendment offered by Seantors James Inhofe (R-OK) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) passed by voice vote in the Senate yesterday. The House subsequently approved by the Senate CR today with no additional changes.
The bill, which will now go to the President for his signature, requires all branches of the armed services to provide TA for service members.
The Senate Energy & Natural Resources has approved the nomination of Sally Jewell for the Secretary of Interior. Jewell’s nomination will now move to the full Senate for consideration, likely sometime in mid-April.
Yesterday, the Senate passed HR 933, a continuing resolution to fund federal government for the remainder of FY 2013. That bill now moves back to the House for final approval, which should take place today before being sent to the President for signature. While the CR does not eliminate sequestration, it does provide some federal agencies with more flexibility as to how they implement their cuts. And some programs will receive extra funds that may reduce the immediate impacts of sequestration. The National Institutes of Health will get an extra $71 million from the Senate bill, only partly offsetting the $1.5 billion cut that must happen in NIH’s estimated $31 billion budget due to sequestration. The National Science Foundation will also get a boost of $221 million to $7.2 billion even as they must cut about $360 million from their budget.
With the final passage of the CR today, this is likely the end of any discussions to eliminate or replace the sequester for this year.
Both the House and Senate will spend most of today focusing on their respective FY 2014 budget resolutions as they try to get those measures approved before they begin their two-week recess period on Friday. The budget resolution provides instructions to the appropriations committees in both chambers as to how much each federal agency will have to spend for the upcoming fiscal year. Appropriators use these guidelines to craft spending bills for the upcoming fiscal year that direct how each agency must use their funds. The House and Senate budget plans will likely establish different overall spending priorities making it difficult for appropriators in both chambers to come to resolution on final bills by September 30th.
The Senate is still struggling to get the FY 2013 continuing resolution (CR) approved, which now looks like it may happen on Thursday. That will leave little time to consider the FY 2014 budget resolution. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said that he is planning to keep members in session until they complete work on the budget resolution even if it means working through the weekend or into next week. Congress is scheduled to begin a two-week recess period starting this Friday.
Meanwhile, the House is scheduled to take action on their FY 2014 budget resolution today. The two chambers have wildly different budget measures to consider, which will make reconciliation between the two very challenging. The House plan is written to balance the budget in 10 years and cut the deficit by $5.7 trillion between FY 2014 to FY 2023. The Senate plan would cut the deficit by only $1.8 trillion over 10 years. But even if the House completes their work on the budget before Friday, they will need to stick around to take final action on the CR that the Senate is still debating since they can’t go home without also acting on the stopgap measure, which is required to avoid government shutdown before the current CR expires on March 27th.
The CR is critical at this point as federal agencies are looking to that legislation to help them adapt to across-the-board spending cuts required by the sequester. Neither chamber has made attempts to overturn sequestration, but instead the focus has been to update the base from which the cuts are made by providing departments with more detailed full-year appropriations. This will give some agencies some flexibility in implementing cuts.
The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a business meeting at 10:00am EDT on Thursday, March 21st, to consider the nomination of Sally Jewell to be the Secretary of the Interior. The business meeting will be webcast live on the Committee’s website, and an archived video will be available shortly after the meeting is complete. The committee is expected to advance Jewell’s nomination.
Dr. Luis Fraga, Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement and Russell F. Stark Professor at the University of Washington, was on Capitol Hill this morning for a presentation on immigration reform. Dr. Fraga spoke to the room of congressional staff about the need for comprehensive immigration reform and how current and future policies may impact UW students, faculty, and the state as a whole. Our very own Congressman, Jim McDermott, graciously introduced Dr. Fraga and opened the discussion this morning.
Congress has a busy schedule this week before they leave town for their two-week Easter recess. On the agenda are the continuing resolution (CR) and dueling House and Senate budget proposals.
The Senate resumes consideration of the CR to fund the federal government for the rest of FY 2013. With some 90 amendments filed, they may need to vote on cloture in order to move the process forward as the bill will have to go back to the House for final consideration before the end of the week. The current CR expires on March 27th, but both chambers intend to be out on recess starting this Friday.
On the heels of the CR votes, the House and Senate will both take action on their respective budget resolutions for FY 2014. The House is expected to adopt their FY 2014 budget resolution by the end of the week that calls for reducing projected spending as well as cutting the deficit by $5.7 trillion from FY 2014 to FY 2023, when compared with the baseline for future spending and tax receipts projected by the Congressional Budget Office. The savings would come from cuts in domestic programs, repealing the 2010 health care law, and overhauling the tax code. (more…)