DC Digest – June 9, 2017

In Today’s Issue:
  • Francis Collins Stays
  • NIH Ends GSI
  • Duke Signs Letters to Appropriators
  • DeVos Hearing Update
  • H-1B Update
  • DGHI on the Hill

FRANCIS COLLINS STAYS

President Donald Trump has decided to keep Francis Collins as director of the NIH, the White House announced June 6. There had long been speculation about whether Trump would keep Collins on to oversee the $34 billion per year medical research agency.

Collins, who has served as the agency’s director since 2009, has long enjoyed widespread support from moderate Republicans, including key lawmakers who oversee NIH, including Senate health committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and health appropriators such as Rep. Tom Cole (OK-4) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO)

NIH Ends GSI

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is dropping a contested, 1-month-old plan to cap the amount of support an individual scientist can receive in order to spread funds to more investigators. Instead, the agency will eventually devote $1 billion a year—about 3% of its $34 billion budget—specifically to funding proposals from early- and midcareer investigators.

Cap and Trade

LETTERS TO THE HILL

Duke joined peer institutions in reaching out to the Defense Appropriations subcommittee to comment on the Defense Health Research Consortium as the committee begins to write the FY18 Defense Appropriations Bill.

The letter “request[s] your continued support for the critical and highly successful defense health research programs funded through the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) at the Department of Defense (DoD).”

Letters to the Editor

EPA S&T

Duke also joined peer institutions in thanking the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies which oversees the EPA budget for their efforts in ensuring enactment of the FY 2017 Omnibus Appropriations legislation and for sustaining reasonable funding levels for science and technology programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The letter added that “as you begin the appropriations process for FY 2018, we urge you to provide the EPA Office of Science and Technology (S&T) with $754 million, which would help restore funding for important research across the Nation.

Dear Abby

DEVOS HEARING UPDATE

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos told senators that the Trump administration is “on track” to restore year-round Pell grants starting July 1. The “summer Pell” provision was added to the fiscal 2017 omnibus, more than a year after congressional leaders first reached a deal to expand the program.

Budget Questions

The Republican chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee overseeing education funding reacted to President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts to a range of education programs.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) opened the hearing on Trump’s education budget by telling Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, “this is a difficult budget request to defend.”

The Trump administration has proposed a more than 13 percent reduction in overall funding to the Education Department. Blunt singled out proposed cuts to career and technical education and the Federal Work Study program as particularly concerning.

“It’s likely that the kinds of cuts proposed in this budget will not occur,” Blunt said.

Doobie-ous Demands

H-1B UPDATE

The White House has been working with the Justice Department on overhauling the H-1B visa program to better adhere to the administration’s “Buy American, Hire American” order.

The federal government is considering compelling companies seeking employees under the H-1B visa program to advertise the jobs online first and hire U.S. workers before foreigners — even for high-tech roles. The Trump administration is also discussing reducing the cap and duration for these visas — which would, in effect, make it more costly for companies to bring foreign workers from overseas.

Other potential regulations include compelling H-1B employers to submit a report every six months on duties performed by the foreign worker. The administration could also seek to cut back “optional practical training,” which currently allows STEM graduates to work in the U.S. for three years after graduation.

DGHI ON THE HILL

On Wednesday, June 7, Diana Harvey of the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) and a member of the Triangle Global Health Consortium met with members from numerous sectors (education, industry, NGOs, etc.) as well as Congressmen David Price (NC-4) and G.K. Butterfield (NC-1) and their fellow legislators to discuss how global health work contributed $3.7 billion to the North Carolina Economy in 2015 according to a new report.

It’s the Economy…