DC Digest - March 4, 2011
In Today's Issue:
- Two-Week CR Enacted, President Calls for High-Level Discussions
- Senate Democrats Release FY11 CR With $10 Billion in Cuts
- The Death of LEAP?
- Senate Makes Progress on Patent Reform Bill
- First in Series of House Hearings Examines Regulatory Burden on Education
- Higher Ed Associations Ask Ed Department to Rescind State Authorization Rule
- Obama Announces Humanities Medals for 2010
- Potential Cuts to Pell Could Affect Students in 2011
- More College Graduates Take Public Sector Jobs
TWO-WEEK CR ENACTED, PRESIDENT CALLS FOR HIGH-LEVEL DISCUSSIONS
Congress has approved, and the President has signed, a two-week continuing resolution (CR) to sustain federal funding after the current CR expires today, March 4. This heads off, at least temporarily, the threat of a government shutdown. The House vote on the bill (H. J. Res 44) was 335 to 91; the Senate vote was 91 to 9.
The short-term CR funds federal agencies and programs at largely their FY10 levels, minus $4 billion. The measure largely avoids controversial policy issues and achieves most of its savings by cutting congressional earmarks and eliminating programs the White House has already targeted in its FY12 budget proposal. The cuts include earmarks in the Department of Energy Office of Science and in the Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, as well as elimination of the Leveraging Educational Assistance Program. The short-term CR does not cut Pell Grants.
Meanwhile, President Obama today issued a statement calling on House and Senate leaders of both parties to “begin meeting immediately” with Vice President Joseph Biden, the President’s chief of staff, and OMB Director Jacob Lew to “find common ground on a budget that makes sure we are living within our means.”
The statement added: “This agreement should cut spending and reduce deficits without damaging economic growth or gutting investments in education, research and development that will create jobs and secure our future. This agreement should be bipartisan, it should be free of any party’s social or political agenda, and it should be reached without delay.”
Two-Week Continuing Resolution Kills LEAP (NAICU.edu)
SENATE DEMOCRATS RELEASE FY11 CR WITH $10 BILLION IN CUTS
Earlier today, the White House and congressional Democrats offered to cut another $6.5 billion in discretionary spending, in addition to the $4 billion reduction in the recently passed two-week-long FY11 CR. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) today released his version of an FY11 CR, and it includes that level of spending cuts.
The plan appears to keep most federal programs at their current funding levels, minus the $10.4 billion or so in proposed cuts. A press release describing the Senate plan says it would maintain the maximum Pell Grant award at $5,550. (The House bill would reduce the maximum award to $4,705.) It also would maintain funding for the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program at $757 million.
The $10.4 billion in total proposed cuts are far below the $61 billion in cuts approved by the House. The New York Times reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) plans to allow debate and votes on the two proposals next week “to test support for the competing plans and lay the groundwork for a compromise.”
Democrats Propose Responsible Spending Reductions (Appropriations.senate.gov)
THE DEATH OF LEAP?
If there ever was a federal student aid program that Rodney Dangerfield would have appreciated, it’s the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) grant program. It has never gotten any respect.
The $64-million program, which provides matching funding to states to entice them to spend their own resources on need-based financial aid, has been on the chopping block nearly every year since Congress created it in 1972. Presidents as far back as Richard Nixon have proposed killing it -- although, at least until now, the program’s champions have always managed to save it. This year, though, their luck may have run out.
The Death of Leap? (Higher Ed Watch)
SENATE MAKES PROGRESS ON PATENT REFORM BILL
The Senate this week debated but did not vote on final passage of The America Invents Act of 2011 (S. 23), legislation to update and reform the U.S. patent system. National Journal reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed for cloture on the bill yesterday, with a vote expected on Monday evening, March 7, and final passage likely by mid-week.
During consideration of the bill yesterday, the Senate rejected an amendment offered by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) which would have struck a key provision of the bill calling for a transition from a first-to-invent to a first-inventor-to- file (FITF) system. The vote to table the Feinstein-Boxer amendment was 87 to 13.
The six higher education associations that have worked together on this issue, including AAU, strongly support the overall bill, as well as the specific provision to move to first-inventor-to-file. The groups expressed that support in a letter to the Senate on February 28. FITF is one of the primary recommendations for patent reform made by the National Academies committee co-chaired by Yale University President Rick Levin. Its removal effectively would have killed the bill in the Senate.
Letter in Support of Patent Reform (ACEnet.edu)
FIRST IN SERIES OF HOUSE HEARINGS EXAMINES REGULATORY BURDEN ON EDUCATION
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing yesterday to examine the impact of federal regulations on educational institutions. President Christopher Nelson of St. John’s College (MD), representing the higher education community, highlighted the costs and the occasionally duplicative nature of federally mandated data collection, among other issues. In his testimony, Nelson noted that federal regulations resulting from the Higher Education Act, those imposed by agencies other than the Department of Education, and Title IV financial aid program requirements can all significantly impact college and university autonomy.
First in Series of House Hearings Examines Regulatory Burden on Education (ACEnet.edu)
HIGHER ED ASSOCIATIONS ASK ED DEPARTMENT TO RESCIND STATE AUTHORIZATION RULE
Sixty higher education and accrediting organizations, including AAU and ACE, sent a letter yesterday to the Department of Education requesting that it rescind the so-called state authorization regulation released in October as part of the final package of program integrity rules.
Higher Ed Associations Ask Ed Department to Rescind State Authorization Rule (ACEnet.edu)
OBAMA ANNOUNCES 2010 HUMANITIES MEDALS
President Obama on Tuesday named the 10 winners of the National Humanities Medal for 2010.
2010 National Humanities Medalists (NEH.gov)
POTENTIAL CUTS TO PELL COULD AFFECT STUDENTS IN 2011
The Pell Grant Program, widely considered to be the backbone of financial aid to the country's most needy students, is subject to a decrease in funding as part of a Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1), which cleared the House last month. Approval of the cuts is far from guaranteed, since the Pell Grant Program has long received bipartisan support in the Senate. But the House's cut represents a struggling economy's fix to a program that was "absolutely" unsustainable, according to Rep. Virginia Foxx R-N.C.), who chairs the Congressional Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training.
Potential Cuts to Pell Could Affect Students in 2011 (US News and World Report)
MORE COLLEGE GRADUATES TAKE PUBLIC SERVICES JOBS
As job hunts became tough after the economic crisis, anecdotal evidence suggested that more young people considered public service. Exactly how big that shift was is now becoming clear: In 2009 alone, 16 percent more young college graduates worked for the federal government than in the previous year and 11 percent more for nonprofit groups, according to an analysis by The New York Times of data from the American Community Survey of the United States Census Bureau. A smaller Labor Department survey showed that the share of educated young people in these jobs continued to rise last year.
More College Graduates Take Public Service Jobs (New York Times)