DC Digest - March 23, 2012
In Today's Issue:
- President Brodhead: Advocating for the Humanities
- House Republicans FY13 Budget Would Cut Domestic Spending, Protect Defense
- HHS Releases Final Rules on Student Health Plans
- Duncan Testifies on Education Budget Before House Subcommittee
- House Letter on FY13 NIH Funding Includes 153 Signatories
- Student Loan Debt Tops $1 Trillion
PRESIDENT BRODHEAD: ADVOCATING FOR THE HUMANITIES
President Richard H. Brodhead delivered the keynote address at the annual meeting of the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) in Washington, DC on March 19, held in conjunction with Humanities Advocacy Day on March 20. NHA is a non-profit organization to advance national humanities policy in the areas of research, education, preservation and public programs.
In his remarks, President Brodhead reminded the audience, "To make someone want to invest in the humanities, we first have to remind them what the humanities are and why they matter."
See President Brodhead's remarks on the humanities - and why they matter - below.
Brodhead: Advocating for the Humanities (duke.edu)
HOUSE REPUBLICANS FY13 BUDGET WOULD CUT DOMESTIC SPENDING, PROTECT DEFENSE
The FY13 budget introduced on March 20 by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) proposes to cut spending significantly on a wide variety of domestic discretionary and entitlement programs, while protecting defense spending. The measure, which was approved by the House Budget Committee on March 21 by a vote of 19-18, also calls for revamping Medicare and Medicaid, repealing health care reform, and overhauling the tax code.
The House is expected to consider and approve the measure next week, reports Politico.
As indicated by earlier news reports, the House budget resolution would set FY13 discretionary spending about $19 billion below the $1.047 trillion level approved with bipartisan support in last year’s Budget Control Act (BCA), with added funding for defense and cuts in domestic spending.
As reported by CQ.com, the budget plan would set defense discretionary spending at $554 billion, or about $8 billion above the BCA level. Domestic discretionary spending would be set at $474 billion, or about $27 billion below the BCA level, says the publication.
Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leaders are sticking with the BCA discretionary spending level of $1.047 trillion. As required by the BCA, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) filed a “deeming” resolution on March 20, which sets discretionary spending for FY13 at that level and enables Senate appropriators to begin moving their FY13 funding bills.
The House budget summary is unclear about how the budget treats Pell Grants. The document says that the budget would place Pell on a sustainable path by limiting growth of financial aid and focusing it on low-income students who need it most (pages 43-44). Also unclear is what the summary means when it says that the budget would consolidate job-training programs into career scholarships.
Presumably, cuts in domestic discretionary spending would translate into cuts in research programs, but the energy section of the budget summary (page 30) says:
“This budget would continue funding essential government missions, including energy security and basic research and development, while paring back duplicative spending and non-core functions, such as applied and commercial research or development projects best left to the private sector.”
The annual budget process, which begins with the release of the president's budget proposal, is usually followed by the preparation of House and Senate budget resolutions, which must then make their way through the legislative process. The resulting plan serves as a blueprint for funding each government agency. The actual decisions about how much money each program gets are made by the appropriations committees in each chamber.
However, Congress has failed to pass a budget resolution for the past three years, and given the upcoming election and the fact that the Senate does not intend to propose a budget this year, few expect the House plan to go anywhere. With no floor vote on a comprehensive budget package, members up for election are saved from difficult votes on deficits, tax hikes or spending cuts that could hurt their chances. In all likelihood, action on most of these matters will occur after the election.
Fiscal Year 2013 Budget (budget.house.gov)
HHS RELEASES FINAL RULES ON STUDENT HEALTH PLANS
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has published the final rules on student health plans under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform bill signed into law in 2010. The Department issued the final rules on March 16 and published them in the Federal Register on Wednesday.
A group of higher education associations sent a letter to HHS and the White House on March 2, requesting that the Department either immediately issue the final version of the proposed rules, originally published in February 2011, or announce a delay in their implementation until the 2013-14 academic year. The associations said the delay was causing problems for some campuses in their contract negotiations for student health insurance coverage for the 2012-13 academic year.
As reported by the American Council on Education, major provisions include:
• Benefit caps can be no lower than $100,000 in the 2012-13 academic year and $500,000 in the 2013-14 academic year. After 2013-14, the cap will be eliminated completely.
• The medical loss ratio (the percentage of premiums that must be spent on health care programs and quality improvement) must be at least 70 percent in 2013 and 80 percent thereafter.
• The final rule notes that self-funded student health plans cannot be included in this regulation without a change in law. Additionally, the final rule clarifies that the student health plans of nonprofit religious institutions of higher education qualify for a one-year transition to the new contraceptive coverage requirement, similar to nonprofit employers.
Student Health Insurance Coverage (FederalRegister.gov)
HHS Publishes Final Student Health Insurance Rules (ACE.edu)
DUNCAN TESTIFIES ON EDUCATION BUDGET BEFORE HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE
As more details became clear Thursday about the effect a proposed Republican budget would have on education programs, Education Secretary Arne Duncan defended the Obama administration's higher education proposals against skeptical members of Congress.
At a hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, Duncan summarized the administration’s plans for higher education, including a Race to the Top-like program for college affordability and completion and a major expansion of the Perkins Loan Program. While much of the discussion was about elementary and secondary education, many of the most pointed questions from members of Congress dealt with the administration’s proposed new spending on higher education.
Duncan Defends New Spending (InsideHigherEd)
HOUSE LETTER ON FY13 NIH FUNDING INCLUDES 153 SIGNATORIES
A group of 153 Members of the House, including nine Republicans, sent a letter to House appropriators on March 20 urging them to fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at $32 billion in FY13, an increase of 4.5 percent. “We feel this level is absolutely vital in order for NIH to continue improving health through medical science breakthroughs and to maintain international leadership in science and biomedical research,” said the Members. The letter was spearheaded by Reps. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA).
House Letter Urging FY13 NIH Funding (pdf)
STUDENT LOAN DEBT TOPS $1 TRILLION
The amount Americans owe on student loans is far higher than earlier estimates and could lead some consumers to postpone buying homes, potentially slowing the housing recovery, U.S. officials said Wednesday.
Total student debt outstanding appears to have surpassed $1 trillion late last year, said officials at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency created in the wake of the financial crisis. That would be roughly 16% higher than an estimate earlier this year by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
CFPB officials say student debt is rising for several reasons, including a surge in Americans going to college in recent years to escape the weak labor market. Also, tuition increases—which many colleges say are needed to offset big cuts in state funding—have many students taking out bigger loans.
Student Loan Debt Tops $1 Trillion (Wall Street Journal)