DC Digest – July 15, 2016

THE BIG PICTURE: Congress adjourned Thursday afternoon, with no plans to return until after Labor Day, seven weeks from now. The House Appropriations Committee continued work until the Thursday adjournment, advancing the Labor-HHS-Education bill from committee after a day and a half mark-up session. Both Appropriations Committees have now completed their work on each of the twelve appropriations bills, but only a handful have been debated and passed by either the House or Senate. When lawmakers come back in September, they’ll have less than 20 working days to get things done and the main focus will be on a stopgap spending bill, known as a Continuing Resolution, to keep the government open past Sept. 30. Congressional leaders appeared divided over the path forward, with House Speaker Paul Ryan stating at a news conference that he is not ready to abandon the appropriations process, meaning more stand alone appropriations bills could be debated in the September, before the end of the fiscal year. The Office of Government Relations will continue to monitor the situation.

  • APPROPRIATIONS UPDATE: House Committee approves Labor-HHS-Education Bill
  • Higher Ed Association Issues Statement on Labor-HHS-Education Bill 
  • Guidance Regarding Campus Political Activity 

APPROPRIATIONS UPDATE: House Committee approves Labor-HHS-Education Bill
The House Appropriations Committee approved the FY17 Labor-HHS Education appropriations bill Thursday morning, the twelfth and final FY17 appropriations bill to pass out of committee.

The measure would raise funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to $33.3 billion, an increase of $1.25 billion above the FY16 level. The full committee voted down an amendment that would have restored the year-round Pell Grant.

National Institutes of Health 
Funding for NIH includes $165 million for the National Children’s Study, $511.5 million for Clinical and Translational Sciences Awards, and $333.3 million for Institutional Development Awards (IDeA) programs. Other details include:

  • $1.26 billion, a $350 million increase, for the Alzheimer’s disease research initiative;
  • $195 million, a $45 million increase, for the Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative; and
  • $300 million for the Precision Medicine Initiative.

The bill maintains the salary cap on external NIH grants at Executive Level II of the Federal Executive pay scale.

Higher Education 

  • The bill would raise the Pell Grant maximum award to $5,935 through a combination of discretionary and mandatory funds (which is the same as the Administration’s request and the Senate bill).
  • $733 million for Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, flat-funded from FY16
  • $989.7 million for Federal Work-Study, flat-funded from FY16
  • $72.2 million for Title VI/Fulbrigth-Hays, flat-funded from FY16

As the House Committee prepared to markup the Labor-HHS-Education bill, the Association of American Universities, of which Duke is a member, issued a statement thanking House appropriators for providing a significant funding increase for NIH in their draft bill, singling out Subcommittee Chairman Cole and Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) for working to make that possible.

The statement expressed concern, however, that the draft bill does not restore the year-round Pell Grant and includes an overall cut in other federal student aid programs. While noting that final details of the bill are not available, the statement says that cuts in student aid programs would be a “move in the wrong direction” at a time when the nation needs to be improving access to college.

As the campaign enters the general election phase, take a look at Duke University’s guidance regarding campus political activity and engagement with government officials. The information, which is located on our office website, provides general guidance to members of the Duke community as they consider their engagement with various political actors. Read more on the OGR blog.