DC Digest - November 18, 2011
In Today's Issue:
- Congress Approves FY12 'Minibus' with CR Lasting to December 16
- FY12 Minibus Increases Funding for Key Science Agencies
- OSTP Budget is Cut Significantly in FY12 Minibus
- Minibus Provides Full FY12 Request for U.S. Patent Office
- Duke Prof Participates in Congressional Briefing, Shares Research with NC Delegation
- Higher Ed Associations Write to House Funding Panel About Pell Grant Savings Proposal
- Student Aid Alliance Delivers 100,000 Signatures to Super Committee in Support of Federal Student Aid
- Senate Democrats Advocate to Preserve Pell on Senate Floor
- Overpayments of Pell Grants Have Dropped by Millions, White House Says
- Humanities Advocacy Day Planned for March 2012
- House Committee Marks Up 'GRANT Act'
- Opinion: Five Myths About Student Loans
CONGRESS APPROVES FY12 “MINIBUS” WITH CR LASTING TO DECEMBER 16
Congress on Thursday approved the conference report for the FY12 appropriations “minibus,” approving not just three FY12 appropriations bills but also an attached second continuing resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown and fund the rest of the government through December 16. The House vote was 298 to 121; the Senate vote was 70 to 30. It was signed into law Friday. The three FY12 funding bills in the package are Agriculture, Transportation-Housing, and Commerce-Justice-Science.
The spending package provides $128.1 billion in discretionary funding subject to the $1.043 trillion discretionary spending cap approved last August in the Budget Control Act, reports CQ.com. The three FY12 spending bills provide $19.8 billion in discretionary spending for Agriculture, a cut of $391 million from FY11; $52.7 billion for Commerce-Justice-Science, a cut of $387 million; and $55.6 billion for Transportation-Housing, an increase of $183 million. See next item for more detail.
Senate leaders had planned to consider a second FY12 appropriations minibus, but that approach was derailed earlier this week. It appears increasingly likely that Congress will need an omnibus appropriations package to finish the nine FY12 funding bills that are not part of the three-bill minibus that the House and Senate approved Thursday.
FY12 MINIBUS INCREASES FUNDING FOR KEY SCIENCE AGENCIES
The conference report for the FY12 appropriations minibus, signed into law Friday, increases funding for four scientific agencies and directorates included in the Commerce-Justice-Science section of the bill and level-funds the competitive Agriculture Food Research Initiative (AFRI) in the Agriculture section of the bill.
National Science Foundation
The bill provides $7 billion, which not only is an increase of $173 million over FY11 but also is more than either the House or Senate had provided in their FY12 funding bills. The total includes $5.7 billion for Research and Related Activities, $167 million for Major Research and Facilities Construction, and $829 million for Education and Human Resources.
Within the $17.8 billion approved for NASA, the Science Mission Directorate will receive $5.09 billion, which is $155 million above the FY11 level. The bill includes $529 million for the James Webb Space Telescope, a project which the House bill had not funded. Aeronautics would receive $570 million and Space Technology $575 million.
Other Scientific Agencies/Directorates
The National Institutes of Standards and Technology will see a 12-percent increase over FY11 to $567 million.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will receive $4.9 billion in FY12, which is $306 million, or seven percent, above the FY11 level.
The AFRI program, funded in the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture, is flat-funded at the FY11 level of $264.47 million.
Congress Sets Slightly Higher Science Budgets (Chronicle of Higher Ed)
OSTP BUDGET IS CUT SIGNIFICANTLY IN FY12 MINIBUS
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is funded at $4.5 million in the FY12 appropriations minibus. This is $1.5 million below the Senate-approved level, $1.5 million above the House committee-passed level, and well below the FY11 level of $6.6 million.
AAU and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) wrote to House and Senate conferees on November 14 urging them to fund OSTP “as close as possible to the $6 million level of funding included in the Senate’s version of H.R. 2112.” The letter cited the “vital role OSTP plays in the development of scientific and technology policies for the nation.”
AAU, APLU Urge Strong FY12 Funding for OSTP (pdf)
MINIBUS PROVIDES FULL FY12 REQUEST FOR U.S. PATENT OFFICE
The Commerce Department section of the FY12 funding bill also provides $2.7 billion for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which is the full requested level. This amount is $588 million, or 28 percent, above the FY11 level. The funding bill includes language that allows USPTO to keep and use excess fees should actual collections exceed estimates, subject to congressional approval of spending plans.
DUKE PROF PARTICIPATES IN CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING, SHARES RESEARCH WITH NC DELEGATION
In conjunction with the House Research and Development Caucus, the Optical Society hosted a briefing on November 17 to provide insight into how medical imaging is being used to better diagnose and treat a range of conditions, while offering perspective into where this technology is headed in the future.
Dr. Joseph Izatt, professor of biomedical engineering at Duke, discussed current and future technologies related to optics in retinal imaging and gave examples of how federally-funded laboratory research has translated into improved disease detection as well as successful start-up companies.
After the briefing, Dr. Izatt visited staff members of some of the North Carolina delegation to explain how federal investments in basic research led to the development of retinal imaging technology that is now the standard used in medical offices around the world. Dr. Izatt also shared how government seed money (SBIR grants) helped his RTP-based startup company spin out of the research developed in his lab.
Dr. Joseph A. Izatt's Website (fitzpatrick.duke.edu)
Event Info - Medical Imaging: R&D Saving Lives (researchcaucus.org)
HIGHER ED ASSOCIATIONS WRITE TO HOUSE FUNDING PANEL ABOUT PELL GRANT SAVINGS PROPOSALS
A group of 15 higher education associations, including AAU, ACE, and NAICU sent a letter to members of the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee on November 17 expressing concern about the panel’s approach to reducing costs in the Pell Grant program.
The letter offers the associations’ assistance in finding ways to achieve necessary savings and opposes any effort to cut Pell Grant funding by more than the existing $1.3 billion shortfall, as outlined in the draft House bill. The letter adds, “In order to protect the neediest students, any substantive revisions to the Pell Grant formula must be handled in a deliberate and open process under the stewardship of the authorizing committee. Otherwise, there is a real risk of significant, unintended consequences.”
The associations also express opposition to including language in the funding bill that would require the Secretary of Education “to ratably reduce the Pell Grant award when program funds run short,” because this would remove the burden from Congress to find the means to fully fund the grants.
Associations Write to House Funding Panel About Pell Grant Savings Proposals (pdf)
STUDENT AID ALLIANCE DELIVERS 100,000 SIGNATURES TO SUPER COMMITTEE IN SUPPORT OF FEDERAL STUDENT AID
As part of their Save Student Aid! Campaign, the Student Aid Alliance yesterday delivered a statement of support for federal student aid funding signed by more than 100,000 people to members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. The Alliance is already hearing positive feedback from a number of those members’ offices this morning.
Hundreds of college and university presidents, as well as thousands of students, administrators and citizens from all types of institutions nationwide pledged their support for student aid. The campaign was launched on Oct. 24, 2011.
Coalition Delivers More than 100,000 Signatures to Super Committee in Support of Federal Student Aid (Acenet.edu)
SENATE DEMOCRATS ADVOCATE TO PRESERVE PELL ON SENATE FLOOR
Four Senate Democrats delivered a colloquy on the Senate floor Wednesday advocating against cuts to the Federal Pell Grant program. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) all shared stories from Pell Grant students in their home states. It currently remains uncertain whether Congress will make cuts to the Pell Grant in the 2012 budget. While the Senate appropriations committee has proposed maintaining the $5,550 maximum grant, the Republican-controlled House Budget Committee blocked the part of the provision that would use 2013 funding to the support the program in fiscal year 2012.
Senate Democrats Advocate to Preserve Pell Funding in 2012 (NASFAA.org)
OVERPAYMENTS OF PELL GRANTS HAVE DROPPED BY MILLIONS, WHITE HOUSE SAYS
Changes in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid that let applicants import information directly from their federal income-tax returns have reduced Pell Grant overpayments by $300-million since 2010, the White House announced on Tuesday.
The news was part of a broader announcement by the Obama administration that it had cut improper payments by more than $20-billion, largely in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. A statement from the White House attributed the improvements to "more robust audits," new technologies, and better partnerships with states.
Overpayments on Pell Grants Have Dropped By Millions, White House Says (Chronicle of Higher Ed)
HUMANITIES ADVOCACY DAY PLANNED FOR MARCH 19-20, 2012
The National Humanities Alliance (NHA), a coalition in which AAU participates, will hold its annual meeting and Humanities Advocacy Day on March 19-20, 2012. Additional information about the event, including the preliminary program, is available on the NHA website.
Questions about the two-day event should be directed to Robert Madrid at email@example.com or (202) 296-4994 x151.
NHA Website (NHAlliance.org)
HOUSE COMMITTEE MARKS UP 'GRANT ACT'
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday approved by voice vote legislation that its sponsors say is aimed at creating greater transparency in the awarding of federal grants.
Among other provisions, the Grant Reform and New Transparency Act of 2011 (H.R. 3433), called the “GRANT Act,” would:
• Require all federal executive agencies to use merit-based procedures in awarding grants (with some exceptions);
• Make public the selection procedures for each grant program, including how proposals are evaluated, ranked, and selected;
• Before making an award, assess the adequacy of a grant applicant’s financial management system, internal controls, and reporting and compliance systems;
• Require the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to create a single, comprehensive website for all federal grant opportunities;
• Require OMB to post within 15 days of an agency’s notification of a grant award such information as a copy of the final grant agreement, a copy of the submitted proposal, the number of proposals received, numerical ranking of the awarded grant proposal if rankings were assigned, the name, title, and employer of all individuals who served as reviewers for the grant program for the six months preceding the award, and the same information about peer reviewers of the awarded grant.
OPINION: FIVE MYTHS ABOUT STUDENT LOANS
Many of the Occupy Wall Street protesters are struggling to repay student loans and want their debt to go away. An online petition calling for cancellation of all student loans has gathered more than 600,000 signatures. President Obama responded, in part, last month with an improved income-based repayment plan, but most of the protesters and petitioners will not qualify for it. The increased attention on education debt has also brought attention to many misconceptions about how people borrow to pay for school.
Five Myths About Student Loans (Washington Post)