DC Digest — June 30, 2016

  • APPROPRIATIONS UPDATE: Work Stalls as Congress Leaves for Holiday
  • Senate Commerce Committee Marks Up Competitiveness Bill
  • House Education Committee Approves Package of Higher Education Bills
  • NIH Releases Final Policy on Use of Single IRBS
  • Catching up with Duke Student Interns

APPROPRIATIONS UPDATE: Work Stalls as Congress Leaves for Holiday
Just when it looked as if Congress would keep churning through its FY17 appropriations bills, the process broke down in both chambers last week over gun control. In the Senate, work on the FY17 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill-which funds the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA-came to a halt. A $1.1 billion military funding bill, which included funding for a response to the Zika virus failed to garner the 60 votes necessary for final passage on the floor of the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he will readdress this bill following the July 4th recess.

In the House, Democrats on June 22 staged a sit-in on the House floor to demand a vote on gun safety measures. Their demands failed to convince the House Republican leadership to hold any such votes, but to avoid such votes and try to end the sit-in, the leadership postponed consideration of the FY17 Financial Services appropriations bill and the House adjourned early for its July 4 recess.

Earlier this week, the Association of American Universities (AAU), of which Duke is a member,  issued a statement urging Congress to complete the FY17 appropriations process, place a high priority on research and higher education, and lay the groundwork for serious reforms in the next Congress. The statement notes the considerable bipartisan support in Congress for research and higher education, particularly for increased funding for the National Institutes of Health.

With the passage of the State-Foreign Relations Operations spending bill this week, the Senate Appropriations Committee has completed work on all 12 appropriations bills for the second year in a row. These bills will still need to be brought before the full Senate.  The House and Senate return to Washington next week, and when they do they will have two weeks of votes before they are scheduled to adjourn for the national conventions and annual August district work period. It is unclear if either chamber will reach a consensus to pass further appropriations before they adjourn.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee June 29 approved by voice vote the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act ( S. 3084 ), the Senate reauthorization bill for a portion of the America COMPETES Act. The bipartisan bill reauthorizes programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The bill contains many positive provisions. It reaffirms NSF’s peer review process; creates a new commercialization and proof-of-concept grant program at NSF, which AAU has long advocated; and, as amended today, contains authorized funding levels for the two agencies. NSF would be authorized at $7.5 billion in FY17 (the level approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee), with a four-percent increase in FY18 (not accounting for inflation). NIST would be authorized at $974 million in FY17 and just over $1 billion in FY18. The bill as amended raises the  micro-purchase threshold to $10,000 for NSF, NASA, and NIST awards.

The committee also approved a modified amendment by Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) that would require the NSF inspector general to audit the agency’s policies and procedures for sub-recipient monitoring. In advance of the markup, AAU issued a statement expressing appreciation for the positive provisions in the bill, and encouraging committee approval of the amendment with authorized funding levels.

The House Education and the Workforce Committee on June 22 approved by voice vote a package of five higher education bills.

The American Council on Education, which includes Duke, on June 21 submitted a  letter to committee leaders on behalf of several higher education associations expressing support for the bills, but citing concerns about how two of the bills would be implemented. Those bills are the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (  H.R. 3178) and the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (  H.R. 3179).


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) on June 21 published its long-awaited final NIH Policy on the Use of a Single Institutional Review Board for Multi-Site Research. The measure, which is designed to streamline the Institutional Review Board (IRB) review process, will take effect May 25, 2017.

NIH has prepared a number of resources to assist the research community in preparing for implementation of the policy. A set of FAQs, as well as  guidance on scenarios illustrating the use of direct and indirect costs for single IRB review under the policy, are now available on the  NIH Office of Science Policy website.


Each summer, dozens of Duke undergraduate and graduate students head to Washington, D.C. for a chance to complement their academic classes with real-world experience through internships with government agencies, non-profits, or D.C. firms. Duke in DC recently asked four of these interns to share some of there experiences with us, and the result is live on our blog.

In addition, fifty-five Duke students gathered at the Duke in DC offices June 20 for a panel discussion on how to make the most of their summer experiences.