As the summer comes to a close, Congress is returning to our nation’s capital and school is back in session on Duke’s campus. After a rather atypical summer recess, the FY22 budget and bipartisan infrastructure bill are still first on the agenda for lawmakers returning to Washington this month.
FY22 Budget & Appropriations
In August, the Senate and House approved the $3.5 trillion FY22 budget resolution, which unlocked the budget reconciliation process. Duke’s current priorities for the FY22 budget resolution and reconciliation package include federal research funding, doubling the maximum Pell Grant and providing a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. The House package addresses most of these priorities and details can be found in this summary.
The fate of the $3.5 trillion package remains unclear, but the Office of Government Relations will continue to advocate for Duke’s priorities as the process moves forward this fall.
FY 22 Appropriations:
Summer is typically a busy time for congressional appropriators, and this year was no different. The delayed release of the FY 22 budget request compressed the timetable, and the House launched into a flurry of activity in June and July. To date, the House Appropriations Committee has approved all 12 of the FY 22 funding bills, and the full House has passed 9 of the 12 bills. The Senate Appropriations Committee started its work just before the August district work period and approved 3 of its bills. Below is a snapshot of the current status of some of Duke’s appropriations priorities.
A continuing resolution to keep the government funded beyond the end of this fiscal year on September 30th is a given, and a messy debate is expected as the endgame for FY 22 appropriations collides with calls to raise the debt ceiling to avoid a default.
Research and Innovation
Congress spent a good part of the early summer debating and passing legislation that sets forth a bold vision for ensuring the nation’s global leadership in scientific research and innovation. Among the legislation includes the Senate-passed U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) as well as both the House-passed NSF and DOE for the Future Acts. The House Science, Space and Technology Committee has also approved a reauthorization bill for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a bill to create regional innovation hubs and legislation to create a new federal research and development program for the bioeconomy.
These proposals would authorize more robust funding levels for the NSF, DOE Office of Science, NIST and DARPA, and seeks to spread the funding across the country instead of at a few concentrated high-tech regions. Congressional negotiators are expected to work this fall to try to resolve the differences between the Senate and House legislation.
In the Executive Branch, the White House launched a National Artificial Intelligence Task Force which aims to expand access to critical resources and tools to help stimulate AI innovation nationwide.
Foreign Influence and Research Security
The debate over federal innovation legislation was infused with concerns over the nation’s competitiveness advantage vis a vis China. In response, many of these bills contain provisions that seek to address research security and foreign influence focused on recurring themes such as participation in foreign talent recruitment programs and disclosure of financial transactions between universities and the Chinese government. A sampling of these provisions can be found here and here.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released guidance for research security and researcher responsibility this summer. This guidance builds upon work from the Trump administration to strengthen protections of U.S. government supported research and development while also ensuring continued innovation and collaboration. The guidance outlined that it will be focusing on disclosure policy, oversight and enforcement and research security programs.
Higher Education and Back to School
The higher education community recently launched the #DoublePell website, which advocates for Congress to double the maximum Pell Grant award to $13,000 and increase funding for other federal student aid programs in FY22 to make attending college more accessible and affordable. As noted above the final numbers for these funding issues will depend on negotiations in Congress that are ongoing.
In August, the Biden administration issued its final extension of the temporary pause on student loan payment collection through January 2022. This is the fourth time the pause has been extended since first being issued in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also this summer, the Department of Education announced that the scheduled FAFSA overhaul will be delayed one year. The department will still begin its phased implementation this year and all the changes are scheduled to be completed by award year 2024-25.
Duke University, the larger higher education community, and others in the business community across the county have continued to urge Congress and the Biden administration to provide a pathway to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) eligible individuals and dreamers.
The recent Texas district court ruling has thrown into further limbo the lives of hundreds of thousands of young Dreamers, and gravely impacted their employers, families, and communities. The Biden administration has appealed the Texas court ruling. On Sunday September 19 the Senate Parliamentarian ruled against Democrats including in their budget reconciliation package a pathway to legal status for nearly 8 million undocumented people. Congressional Democrats continue to explore alternative legislative fixes to provide a legal path to citizenship.
Duke signed on to an amicus brief in support of Optional Practical Training (OPT), which emphasized the program’s important role in providing experiential learning opportunities, which allow students to practice and implement the educational skills they have developed on campus.
On September 14th, the State Department stated, in accordance with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it will begin allowing consular offices through the end of 2021 to waive visa interview requirements for F, M, and academic J visa applicants who meet certain criteria. The department emphasized, “International students are now and always have been among the Department of State’s highest priorities.”
Throughout the past several months, more individuals have been confirmed by Congress to take up their appointed positions in the Biden administration. The Office of Government Relations has an up to date tracker that highlights positions of most relevance to Duke.
This last week the House Ways and Means Committee passed the Build Back Better Act that address a number of higher education’s top tax priorities, including taxation of Pell Grants and the interaction with the American Opportunity Tax Credit, mitigate the tax on net investment income, authorize direct pay bonds modeled on the Build America Bonds program, and reinstate advance refunding of tax-exempt bonds. The bill would also permit students with a felony drug conviction to claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit.
Updates From Duke in DC
The summer didn’t stop Duke from having an active presence in Washington, D.C. The Duke in DC office held another round of its Beyond Talking Points series, focusing on environmental justice from multiple lenses including food and agriculture, trade and diplomacy, and water and infrastructure. The office also held a congressional briefing on childcare infrastructure and the Duke Family Connects model as it relates to current legislation being considered in Congress. Finally in September, Duke in DC hosted a conversation on cybersecurity, emerging technologies and FinTech, featuring Director of the Master of Engineering in FinTech and the Master of Engineering in Cybersecurity at the Duke Pratt School of Engineering, Jimmie Lenz and Duke cyber mentor and retired naval officer, congressional staffer and NSA executive, Kim Kotlar.
Duke professor emeritus of sociology and founding director of the Duke Global Value Chains Center Gary Gereffi came to D.C in July to provide expert testimony for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Gereffi briefed members on global supply chains and noted the importance of a renewed federal focus on supply chain resiliency. You can access a recap and full recording of his testimony on our blog here.
By Lizzie Devitt, Posted 9/17/21