DC Digest – March 24, 2017

In Today’s Issue:
  • ACA Lasts
  • H-1B Update
  • Budget Responses and Next Steps
  • NASA Funding Bill
  • Year-Round Pell


House leaders pulled their bill to repeal and replace ACA just ahead of a planned vote today. Healthcare is not expected to be picked up again this year. 

The move came amid a slew of late-breaking defections by moderate and far-right members of the Republican Conference, who were unbowed by Trump’s ultimatum to vote for the plan or live with the ACA (Obamacare).


Politico is reporting that the White House will likely issue an Executive Order on H-1B visas in the next week.

Urging USCIS to Reconsider H-1B Premium Processing

On March 22 a group of five higher education associations, including AAU, sent a letter to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) describing how the agency’s suspension of premium processing for H-1B visas would “disproportionately” harm universities. They urged the agency to reconsider.

Clock Ticking on H-1B Reform This Year

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will begin to accept H-1B visa petitions for fiscal year 2018 on April 3. That means President Trump has until then to issue changes to the visa category. The president has made mixed comments about H-1B visas in the past, and the program hasn’t emerged as a priority on par with signature projects such as the border wall.


Members of Congress are circulating several Dear Colleague letters regarding FY18 funding for research and higher education agencies and programs.

  • National Science Foundation. Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and David McKinley (R-WV) are again circulating the NSF Dear Colleague letter. Staff contacts are Dennis Sills (Butterfield) at dennis.sills@mail.house.gov or Blake Deeley (McKinley) at blake.deeley@mail.house.gov. The sign-on deadline is 1:00 p.m. March 24.
  • National Endowment for the Humanities. Reps. David Price (D-NC) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) are circulating an NEH letter requesting FY18 funding of $155 million. Staff contacts are Leigh Whittaker (Price) at Leigh.Whittaker@mail.house.gov and Bri Hearn (Lance) at Bri.Hearn@mail.house.gov. The sign-on deadline is March 27.
  • Energy Research Programs, Including ARPA-E. Rep. Don Byer (D-VA) is circulating a letter in support of the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E, Innovation HUBs, EFRCs, and Clean Energy Partnerships. Member offices interested in signing on should contact Kate Schisler at 225-4376 or kate.schisler@mail.house.gov. The updated sign-on deadline is March 30.
  • Title VI International Education and Fulbright-Hays Program. There are House and Senate Dear Colleague letters:
    • o   The House letter by Reps. David Price (D-NC), Don Young (R-AK), and Joe Crowley (D-NY) supports at least FY16 funding levels for the programs. Staff contacts are: Nora Blalock (Price) at nora.blalock@mail.house.gov, Alex Ortiz (Young) at alex.ortiz@mail.house.gov, and Todd Sloves (Crowley) at todd.sloves@mail.house.gov. The sign-on deadline is March 31.
    • National Institutes of Health. Reps. David McKinley (R-WV), Andre Carson (D-IN), Peter King (R-NY), and Susan Davis (D-CA) are circulating a letter that encourages House appropriators to provide NIH “at least $2 billion” above the FY17 enacted level. The contact is Zach Bunshaft (Davis) at zach.bunshaft@mail.house.gov. The sign-on deadline is close of business March 31.

Republican Budget Defections

Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007, recently wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post defending the NEA.

Huckabee Strikes a Plea

Several key Republican lawmakers, who have taken pains to make sure to distribute their grants widely across all 50 states, are expressing support for the NEA and NEH.

From Nay to NEA

Some Republican governors are quietly pressuring lawmakers to oppose President Trump’s proposed cuts to the federal budget.

Regional Funding and Quiet Grumbling


President Trump on March 21 signed into law the bipartisan NASA Transition Authorization Act (S. 442), which authorizes $19.5 billion for the space agency in FY17. The measure stresses human space exploration and largely affirms existing NASA priorities.

According to the Washington Post’s Sarah Kaplan, “The bill more or less aligns with the budget blueprint Trump laid out last week. NASA won’t face the same cuts as other science and medical agencies…Sending humans to Mars by the 2030s remains NASA’s long-term goal, and Congress will continue to fund the construction of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule for that mission.”

A Martian Bargain


Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said today that restoring eligibility for year-round Pell grants is “definitely on the plate to be considered” by the Trump administration.

DeVos told a student roundtable at Valencia College in Florida that the need to create more flexibility in how students use Pell grants has been “a common theme” she’s been hearing since becoming secretary last month.