DC Digest – March 15, 2013

In Today’s Issue:

  • Congress Makes Progress on FY13 CR/Appropriations Package
  • AAU and APLU Urge Senate Appropriators to Pass FY13 Omnibus Funding Bill
  • House FY14 Budget Plan Would Balance Budget with Spending Cuts
  • Senate FY14 Budget Plan Calls for Combination of Spending Cuts, New Revenue
  • Sequestration Results in Suspension of Military Tuition Assistance Programs
  • Spotlight on Duke in Washington
  • Jentleson to Speak on US Middle East Policy on Eve of Obama Trip to Isreal
  • AAU Updates Tax Policy Background Documents
  • GAO Study Shows Overlapping Agency Reviews of Dual Use Research
  • Senator Mo Cowan (T ’91) to Keynote 50th Anniversary Event April 13

Congress is making progress on legislation to sustain government funding after the temporary spending bill (known as a continuing resolution) expires on March 27, and thus avoid the threat of a government shutdown. The federal government has been operating under the current CR since Oct. 1, when the current fiscal year began.

The Current CR
The current CR has been funding federal programs at largely their FY12 levels, with few program changes, since the fiscal year began.  The CR was put in place because Congress was unable to give final approval to any of the FY13 appropriations bills.  The inflexibility of the CR in extending current funding levels and rules makes it difficult for federal agencies to manage their budgets, a problem that has been compounded in FY13 by the $85 billion in across-the-board cuts required by the sequester.

House Version of CR Extension
Last week, the House approved a bill (H.R. 933) to keep the government funded through the end of the fiscal year. Importantly, the $982 billion bill does not reverse the budget cuts mandated by sequestration. It does, however, provide some limited flexibility for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs in how they accommodate the mandated reductions.

Senate Version of CR Extension
Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) on Tuesday introduced the Senate version of H.R. 933. This measure softens some domestic sequestration cuts, which the House bill didn’t address. On the higher education front, the bill would increase spending for the National Science Foundation by $221 million over FY 2012 and provide an additional $71 million to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

However, the NIH would still face more than $1 billion in budget cuts as a result of sequestration, which would likely mean hundreds fewer research grants.

Senate lawmakers had hoped to approve the bill this week, but unable to reach an agreement to handle nearly 100 amendments to the fiscal 2013 stopgap spending bill, the Senate will return Monday to continue work.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) offered an amendment that would have provided $211 million more for the NIH and an additional $14 million for Federal TRIO Programs, among other higher education provisions. These increases would have been paid for by trimming funding for nearly all other education programs, including student aid. However, the amendment did not pass.

Senate Modifications for Science Agency and Higher Education Budgets
The Senate measure includes funding and program changes for several research agencies and student aid programs, both through the appropriations bills included in the package and budget anomalies for programs funded through the CR.   (Pell Grants are exempt from the sequester in FY13).  Here is some of the information available at this writing.

National Science Foundation:  The Senate bill would add $221 million for NSF in FY13, raising its budget to $7.25 billion.  After the sequester, however, its estimated budget would be $6.88 billion.   FY12 funding was about $7 billion.

NASA:  The Senate bill would fund the space agency at $17.52 billion, which agency officials estimate would be reduced to $16.65 billion under the sequester.  This compares to the FY12 budget of $17.7 billion.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI):  The bill would increase AFRI funding by $26 million to $290 million, before the sequester.

Department of Energy Office of Science.  A Senate anomaly would CUT $44 million from the Department of Energy, before the sequester.  This amounts to cuts of $13 million from the DOE Office of Science, $10 million from ARPA-E, $11 million from Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and $10 million from Nuclear Energy.  (In FY12, the DOE Office of Science budget was $4.84 billion, ARPA-E was $275 million, EERE was $1.8 billion, and Nuclear Energy was $765 million.)

National Institutes of Health:  NIH is funded through the CR, but an anomaly in the Senate bill would increase its budget by $71 million, before the $1.6 billion in sequester cuts are imposed.  NIH funding in FY12 was about $31 billion.

Javits Fellowships.  An anomaly allows continuation awards for Javits Fellowship recipients under the Graduate Assistance of Areas of National Need program, which Congress consolidated last year.  The language allows 100 Javits recipients to receive their last year of funding.


AAU and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) sent a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee leaders on March 8 urging them to pass an omnibus appropriations bill for FY13 rather than a continuing resolution (CR).  An omnibus appropriations bill would provide full-year FY13 appropriations bills for all federal agencies.

As the associations said in their letter, enactment of an omnibus appropriations bills would mark a “return to rationality in the appropriations process” and “allow Congress to carry out its responsibility to determine spending and investment priorities for the fiscal year rather than defaulting to the status quo and allowing federal investments in key areas to erode by way of neglect and inflation.”  They praised senators for moving in the direction of an omnibus bill by providing full-year bills for additional agencies, and they asked the two leaders to give priority in the final bill to student financial aid and scientific research.

Read More:
AAU and APLU FY13 Appropriations Letter (pdf)

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced his FY14 budget resolution on March 12, with the goal of balancing the federal budget in 10 years without raising additional taxes. Among the ways the plan proposes to do so is by extending the caps on discretionary spending for an additional two years (through FY23), repealing the health care law, and turning Medicare into a voucher support system.

Rep. Ryan’s plan also would transfer significant discretionary spending from the domestic side of the budget to the defense side, reports CQ.com.  The proposal would limit domestic discretionary spending in FY14 to $414 billion, which is more than $50 billion less than it would be under both the BCA cap and the sequester.  Defense programs would receive $552 billion, which the publication says would essentially wipe out the effects of the sequester.

Read More:
The GOP Plan to Balance the Budget by 2023
The Path to Prosperity: A Responsible, Balanced Budget

In sharp contrast to Rep. Ryan’s budget plan, the FY14 budget resolution introduced Wednesday by Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) would raise tax revenues by about $975 billion and cut spending by about the same amount over the next 10 years.  The plan, which does not aim to balance the federal budget, also calls for replacing the sequester with a mix of different spending cuts and tax increases, as well as $100 billion in new spending on infrastructure and job training.  Senator Murray hopes to take the budget resolution to the Senate floor next week.

Read More:
Chairman Murray Opening Statement (budget.senate.gov)
In 2014 Budgets, Republicans and Democrats Offer Competing Plans for Academe (Chronicle of Higher Ed)