DC Digest - March 11, 2011
In Today's Issue:
- Senate Votes Down Both Parties' FY11 Budget Proposals, New CR in Play in Budget Talks
- Senate Passes Patent Reform Measure
- Senate Panel Approves Small Business Research Bill
- Rep. Virginia Foxx: Limit Federal Role in Higher Education
- College Groups Ask Congress to Delay Higher Ed Rules
- CBO's New Pell Grant Estimates Complicate Budget Negotiations
SENATE VOTES DOWN BOTH PARTIES' FY11 BUDGET PROPOSALS
The Senate on Wednesday rejected alternative Republican and Democratic approaches to the long-term FY11 spending bill. The House-passed H.R. 1, which would cut $57.5 billion from current FY11 funding, failed on a vote of 44-56; the Senate Democratic leadership plan, which would cut $4.7 billion from current funding, failed on a vote of 42-58. (NOTE: The lower numbers for both proposals reflect the fact that $4 billion in FY11 spending has already been cut by the current short-term funding bill.) Since neither proposal came close to receiving the 60 Senate votes needed to pass, the votes made clear that neither party holds a real advantage at the moment, and that serious negotiations will need to take place before the issue is resolved.
Meanwhile, with little chance that a budget agreement will be reached by the time the current continuing resolution (CR) expires on March 18, House appropriators are developing a new short-term FY11 continuing resolution (CR). It remains unclear if the measure will last two weeks—as does the current CR—or three or four weeks. House Republicans say that another short-term CR will, like the current one, include a $2-billion cut in spending for each additional week.
New Continuing Resolution in Play as Budget Talks Resume (Politico)
SENATE PASSES PATENT REFORM MEASURE
The Senate voted 95-5 Wednesday to pass a measure (S. 23) overhauling U.S. patent laws. The bill would boost funding for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and set up mechanisms for objecting to patent applications and challenging patents before they reach the courts.
President Barack Obama released a statement upon the bill’s passage, saying the measure is “vital to our ongoing efforts to modernize America’s patent laws and reduce the backlog of 700,000 patent applications—which won’t just increase transparency and certainty for inventors, entrepreneurs and businesses, but help grow our economy and create good jobs.”
Senate Passes Patent Reform Measure (ACEnet.edu)
SENATE PANEL APPROVES SMALL BUSINESS RESEARCH BILL
The Senate Small Business Committee on Wednesday approved legislation (S. 493) to reauthorize the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, marking the latest effort to reauthorize the two programs, which have been running on a series of short-term authorization extensions since 2008.
The measure, introduced by Small Business Committee Chair Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Ranking Member Olympia Snowe (R-ME), is virtually identical to the bill approved by the Senate in the final days of the 111th Congress, but which the House did not consider. As in the previous bill, S. 493 would increase the set-asides for small business research at federal agencies with extramural research and development budgets that exceed $100 million. The set-aside for SBIR would increase from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent over 10 years, and increase for STTR from .3 percent to .6 percent over six years. The bill also would expand SBIR eligibility of companies that are majority owned by venture capital firms and raise the size of the awards.
The House Small Business Committee, which in the past has not favored an increase in the set-asides, plans to hold a hearing on SBIR/STTR reauthorization on March 16.
REP. VIRGINIA FOXX: LIMIT FEDERAL ROLE IN HIGHER EDUCATION
As head of the House Education Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, expect U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., to play a pivotal role in crafting federal policy impacting a wide range of higher education issues. The 21-member subcommittee holds jurisdiction over postsecondary student assistance and employment services, the Higher Education Act, Title IX and science and technology programs, among other issues.
Rep. Foxx sat down with Diverse to discuss her vision for the subcommittee, her criticism of the Education Department and the role of the federal government in higher education.
U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx: Limit Federal Role in Higher Education (Diverseeducation.com)
COLLEGE GROUPS ASK CONGRESS TO DELAY HIGHER ED RULES
A coalition of higher education groups on Thursday asked Congressional leaders to push for a one-year delay in two Education Department regulations that are scheduled to take effect in July. The groups urged Representative Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), who heads the House of Representatives postsecondary education subcommittee, to either encourage or force the Education Department to delay the implementation date of rules that would establish a federal definition of 'credit hour' and expand state authorization requirements. - from InsideHigherEd
Letter from Associations to Rep. Foxx (pdf)
CBO'S NEW PELL GRANT ESTIMATES COMPLICATE BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS
As Congress and President Obama continue to negotiate over a final fiscal year 2011 spending bill, things are about to get a lot more complicated for the 2011-12 academic year Pell Grant.
Back in January Higher Ed Watch wrote that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had revised its estimate for what lawmakers must appropriate to maintain a maximum grant of $5,550 for the upcoming school year. The figure had previously been $23.2 billion based on estimates done in 2010. In January of this year the CBO said it actually needs to be $28.2 billion, $5.0 billion more, based on the latest projections of eligible students.
CBO's New Pell Grant Estimates Complicate Budget Negotiation (NewAmerica.net)