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USGS, DOE Nominees Clear Committee, Head to Full Senate

Earlier today, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved by voice vote the nominations of David Applegate to be Director of the USGS and Evelyn Wang to be Director of ARPA-E.

Both nominations now head to the full Senate for its consideration.

House Passes Omnibus, FY22 Chart Now Available

Yesterday the House passed an omnibus appropriations package for FY22, following negotiations between House and Senate appropriators. The final package includes modest increases for key scientific and higher education accounts. The Senate is expected to vote on the package quickly to send it to the President’s desk. Current government funding is set to expire on Friday, so another short continuing resolution will be necessary to allow the Senate to clear procedural steps.

A chart tracking key accounts relevant to UW is available here. Our office will post detailed updates as information becomes available. We will also discuss appropriations in more detail during our town hall on March 24th at noon PT (register here).

2022 Federal Agenda Now Live

The University of Washington has published our 2022 Federal Agenda reaffirming our commitment to a robust partnership with the federal government. You can view the agenda here.

On March 24th at 12pm PT, Director of Federal Relations Sarah Castro will participate in a Town Hall highlighting the key elements of our federal agenda. Members of the UW community can register here.

Another CR Pushed Through To Buy More Time

The House passed on a bipartisan basis yesterday another short-term continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government open past the current deadline of midnight, February 19. The Senate is expected to follow suit.

While a number of issues have created problems with respect to the completion of funding bills for FY2022 — which started October 1– one of the biggest hurdles has been the inability of the two parties to come to an agreement on “top line” numbers, the overall funding levels for both defense and non-defense programs.  The passage of another short-term CR allows the various negotiators to continue conversations without risking a government shutdown in less than two weeks.  The CR that was agreed to by the House last evening would keep the government funded through March 11.

Read more about the situation here

Register Now: Federal Relations Spring Town Hall

The Office of Federal Relations will host a virtual town hall for the campus community on Thursday, March 24th from 12pm-1pm PT. Our staff will provide an update on the federal budget, infrastructure and competitiveness bills, and preview the UW’s 2022 federal agenda. This will be followed by an opportunity for Q&A. Register here (NetID restricted).

CR until February 18

The House and Senate have agreed to pass a continuing resolution (CR), which would keep the federal government open and funded, until February 18, 2022. Congress has previously passed a CR that expires at midnight on Friday, December 3, 2021.

The extension gives the House and Senate additional time to finish FY2022 funding and try to pass other legislative priorities, like Build Back Better and raise the debt ceiling, before the end of the calendar year.

While the extension is not happy news, there had been political rumblings of allowing the federal government to shut down for a short time in December for political gains. The CR until February 18, 2022 avoids that situation.

The legislation would be a straight extension of existing funding with the only increase in appropriations for Afghan refugees.

House Passes “Build Back Better” Package

After months of intraparty discord among Democrats, both within the House and between chambers, the House passed early this morning the “Build Back Better” reconciliation package.  The House cleared the measure by a vote of 220 – 213, with one Democrat voting against it.  The vote was delayed to this morning after Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) spoke for more than eight hours against the package, lasting into the very early hours of this morning.

The package now goes to the Senate, where changes are likely, as at least one Democrat in that chamber has made clear his reservations about several parts of the House bill.

Read more about the vote and the next steps here and here.

House Dems Finally Schedule Votes on Reconciliation, Infrastructure Bills

After last minute negotiations among themselves last night, the House Democrats have finally scheduled votes on both the  budget reconciliation and infrastructure bills for this morning.

There were a number of issues on which the House Democrats were trading proposals on the reconciliation measure, including those around immigration, deductibility of state taxes, and paid leave, just to name a few.  The version that is being voted on today will be further modified by a “manager’s amendment,” crafted to address additional last minute changes.

Even if this version does pass the House by the narrowest of margins, how the Senate plans to deal with it remains unknown.  The Senate may wind up taking up a different version of the bill, meaning that the ball would once again be in the House’s court.

The infrastructure bill, which has actually passed the Senate, is also scheduled (as of this morning) for a vote today.  This was part of the compromise between the moderate and progressives, as the latter group wanted to make sure that the former would vote for a reconciliation bill as well as the less costly infrastructure package.

We will provide additional updates.

It’s More Than Climate Provisions

The Office of Federal Relations continues to go through the current iteration of the reconciliation package.  In our last post, we highlighted some of the education, research, and climate-related provisions.  Not surprisingly, there are myriad other provisions of interest in the text.

A significant portion of the funds for the USDA would be dedicated to efforts to address challenges posed by wildfires.  For example, $2 billion is slated for efforts to reduce wildfires and $1 billion is earmarked to implement wildfire protection plans.  The plan would also allocate $25 million for burned forest forest rehabilitation and recovery and $150 million would be dedicated to state fire assistance programs.  The EPA section of the bill would create a $150-million community wildfire planning grants program.

The current version of the legislation includes several competitive grant programs to address wildfires/ land forest management as well.  These include, for example, a $250-million proposal to implement climate mitigation/ forest resilience practice among underserved forest landowners as well as a $200-million for a forest health/inventory program.  The bill also calls for the creation of a $775-million program to promote innovate wood products, including for building materials.

Tax

The reconciliation bill includes a number of tax-related provisions of interest to UW and other universities.  A change to the tax code that might be of interest to some public universities is the proposed creation of a public university research infrastructure tax credit in which up to 40 percent of a qualified cash contribution for projects related to the purchase, construction, or improvement of a research infrastructure property would be credited.  The credit would be capped at $50 million per institution per year and the total amount of the credit would be capped at $500 million per year for five years.

The text also proposes to provide a 20-percent credit to institutions of higher education that take on certain categories of environmental justice programs.  The credit would increase to 30 percent for Minority-Serving Institutions.  The total size of the program would be capped at $1 billion per year for 10 years.

The proposal seeks to make changes to the revenue code as it applies to individual students and families as well.  It would remove a Pell Grant award from a tax filer’s gross income for tax purposes.  It would also not count the value of a student/family’s Pell Grant for the purposes of determining the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the Lifelong Learning Credit.  Another provision would restore the eligibility of those convicted for drug offenses to participate in the AOTC.

Medical/ Health Care Workforce

The current framework also delves into the medical/ health care workforce arena, looking to add significant funds in a number of different fields.  For instance, Sec. 137401 looks to provide scholarships to medical schools to attract 1,000 future medical doctors to serve in rural and/or underserved communities.  The vouchers for scholarships would be aimed at students coming from first generation/ Pell-eligible/underserved backgrounds.

Examples of other medical/ health care workforce-related measures include:  $150 million for children’s hospitals that house graduate medical education; $650 million for the National Health Service Corps; $200 million for the Nurse Corps; $170 million for schools of nursing to grow and diversify nursing workforce in maternal and prenatal health; and, $85 million to health professions schools to address health risks related to climate change.

Immigration-Related Matters

The Congressional Democrats continue to seek to use the reconciliation package to address a number of immigration- and visa-related issues.

As noted in the previous post, the package would extend federal student aid eligibility to DACA- and Temporary Protected Status-eligible students.  It would also enable individuals who entered the country prior to January 1, 2010, to seek green cards.  The framework also proposes to recapture both unused employment- and family-based green cards from prior years and make them available going forward.

However, in its current form, the legislative text would increase a host of fees associated with international students, faculty, and staff, including those on F, J, and H visas, among other visas categories.  We are still assessing the scope and magnitude of these proposed increases.

Next Steps

We continue to go through the text.  It is important to keep in mind that the version that is currently being analyzed most likely will not be the final version that gets taken up for a vote, as negotiations still continue even as this is being written.

Stay tuned.

Finally, We Have the Details

Shortly after the release of the framework earlier this morning, the actual text of the reconciliation bill that will be voted on was made public this afternoon.  The nearly 1,700-page bill is available here.

Although the Office of Federal Relations is in the process of analyzing the legislation, a number of details and themes have emerged.  For example, it is clear that climate change and climate and environmental science receive plenty of attention and resources in the bill, including proposals that would be of interest to UW and other universities.

They include, but are not limited to:

  • $6 billion for NOAA to address coastal and marine habitats and resources.
  • $500 million at NSF for research related to climate change
  • $500 million for fisheries and marine mammal management, conservation, and stock assessments at NOAA
  • $200 million at NOAA OAR for weather and climate forecasting and $100 million for climate research related to weather, ocean, and coastal processes
  • $100 million for climate information dissemination and $20 million for climate education at NOAA
  • $50 million for Climate Adaptation Science Centers at USGS
  • $500 million for wildfire management at Department of Interior through the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management, including funds for science and research.
  • NASA would receive $85 million for R&D on seasonal-to-seasonal forecasting and climate-related science, $25 million for wildfire support, and $30 million for data management needs related to climate research

The legislation that was finally unveiled today includes funds for other agencies and programs of interest as well.

NSF

In addition to the $500 million specifically dedicated for research on climate change at the agency, the bill includes $675 million for NSF for research awards, fellowships, traineeships, and scholarships.  Just as important are the provisions that would fund a new Technology, Innovation, and Partnership (TIP) Directorate at the agency to the tune of $1.52 billion.  The agency would also receive $25 million for research security activities and $55 million to fund cybersecurity education and training activities.

Through the new TIP directorate, the NSF would be expected to allocate $200 million for research capacity building at minority-serving institutions (MSIs).

The bill would provide $200 million for research infrastructure at NSF.  It also would add $200 million to the mid-scale and major research instrumentation programs.  Finally, with respect infrastructure, MSIs would receive up to $100 million for their facilities and instrumentation needs.

Department of Energy

The Office of Science would see an infusion of $985 million while the programs funded through Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would receive $1 billion.

Department of Education

Ultimately, the negotiators on the legislation decided to include an increase of $550 in the Pell Grant maximum.  The bill would also allow DACA and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) students to become eligible for federal student aid, including Pell.

The bill also addresses the lack of teachers and school leaders by creating a “Grow Your Own” program that would increase the number of teachers and school leaders in high need locations, subject areas, and schools by allocating $112 million for the effort.  A new teacher residency program would also receive $112 million.

States, systems of higher education, and tribal colleges would be eligible to apply for grants from a new Retention and Completion Grant program.  This is slated for $500 million and would come to an end in 2030.

MSIs would receive a total of $6 billion for institutional aid through the bill.  In addition to institutional aid, MSIs would also receive a total of $3 billion for R&D infrastructure from Education.  The R&D funds would be used for planning and/or implementation grants by institutions.

The Office of Federal Research will provide additional details after further analysis.