DC Digest – March 31, 2014

In Today’s Issue

  • This Week in Washington
  • President Brodhead Asks NC Members to Support Research and Education in FY15
  • Why Scientific Research Needs Both Public and Private Support
  • More Than 1,000 Groups Urge Funding Increase for FY15 Labor-HHS-Ed Programs
  • NOAA Research Facility at Pivers Island Targeted for Closure in FY15 Budget
  • Associations Urge Extension of Expired Higher Ed Tax Provisions
  • AAU Suggests Improvements in FIRST Act

Capitol Hill: The Senate is poised to debate a five-month extension to unemployment benefits, which will be paid for by a combination of offsets. The bill would provide retroactive payment to those whose benefits were cut off and deny jobless aid to individuals with adjusted gross incomes of $1 million or more. Leaders in the House continue to express doubts. In the hearing rooms, Appropriators continue to hold hearings on the FY15 appropriations process, and GM executives will testify on Tuesday and Wednesday regarding the recall of vehicles with faulty ignition switches.

Obamacare enrollment deadline: Today marks the end of the healthcare.gov enrollment period, but individuals who have started the process — or have had difficulties enrolling — will be able to continue enrolling after the deadline. Health and Human Services officials reported more than 2 million people visited healthcare.gov over the weekend, leading to the site being “under maintenance” starting at 3a.m. Monday.

Foreign Policy: Secretary of State John Kerry has been in Rome over the weekend for talks with his Russian counterpart regarding the build-up of Russian forces along the Russian-Ukranian border. Meanwhile, Congress is expected to finalize a Ukranian aid package this week.

Read More:
Senate Advances Long-Term Unemployment Benefits Extension (Businessweek)
GM CEO Mary Barra to Testify on Capitol Hill April 1 (WSJ Online)
Healthcare.gov offline for nearly six hours on deadline morning (Politico)
US, Russia talks fail to end Ukrainian deadlock (Yahoo!)

Duke President Richard Brodhead sent letters on March 26 to Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan and Representatives G.K. Butterfield and David Price, urging them to support programs of interest to the university during the FY15 appropriations process.  The letters outline the importance of research funding and federal student aid programs to Duke, to the state of North Carolina, and to the nation as a whole.

“As we continue to deal with constrained budgets, it is important to maximize resources by providing sustained strategic investments in key areas that will promote economic growth. Our nation’s research enterprise is a powerful economic driver that provides both technological advances that shape our lives, and the highly skilled workforce to keep us competitive on a global scale.”

Read More:
FY15 Appropriations Letter – Senator Burr (pdf)
FY15 Appropriations Letter – Senator Hagan (pdf)
FY15 Appropriations Letter – Rep. Butterfield (pdf)
FY15 Appropriations Letter – Rep. Price (pdf)


John Aldrich, Duke political science professor and president of the American Political Science Association, writes in a guest post in the Washington Post:

“[P]hilanthropy has long been an important, sometimes even the only, supporter of academic research. What is different is that politics is infecting the government’s support of science, so every source of funding is now viewed with “gratitude and trepidation.” What is needed is a partnership, whereby the federal government supports basic research, private philanthropies support the resulting applications. And this should be true across the board, in the sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities.”

Read More:
Why Scientific Research Needs Public and Private Support (WashingtonPost)


A group of 1,065 organizations sent a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate appropriations committees on March 14.  The letter urged the leaders to raise the FY15 discretionary spending allocation for the Labor-HHS-Education bill to its FY10 level of $163.6 billion, an amount that is $6.8 billion above the FY14 level.

The letter notes that although the budget agreement provided partial relief from the sequester in FY14, there will be significantly less relief in FY15 and that under current law, sequestration will be back in full effect in FY16.  It adds:

“We continue to urge you to work with your colleagues to reverse these harmful cuts by replacing them with a credible, balanced approach to deficit reduction. Only a balanced approach to deficit reduction can restore fiscal stability. Continued discretionary cuts will move us backward in growing the economy, increasing jobs, improving global competitiveness, protecting the health of Americans, and increasing educational attainment.”

Read More:
Letter Urges Increase for FY15 Labor-HHS-Ed Programs (pdf)

For more than a century, federal scientists have worked on Pivers Island near the historic town of Beaufort, N.C., and the beaches of Emerald Isle studying the ocean, and the fish, turtles and dolphins of its sea grass estuaries and rocky reefs. Surrounded by three university labs, it’s one of a handful of oceanography hubs in the nation and the only government research center between New Jersey and Miami studying Atlantic fish populations.

So it came as a surprise recently that the federal government has proposed doing away with the ocean science laboratory, which opened in 1899. Tucked in President Barack Obama’s 218-page proposed budget for 2015 was a one-sentence mention of a plan to close one lab to save money.

Read More:
After More than a Century, a Jewel of Ocean Research Targeted for Closure (islandpacket.com)ASSOCIATIONS URGE EXTENSION OF EXPIRED HIGHER EDUCATION TAX PROVISIONS
A group of higher education associations sent a letter last week to leaders of the House and Senate tax-writing committees asking them to include extension of two higher education tax benefits in any tax extenders legislation they approve this year.

The letter describes the importance of the above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses and the Individual Retirement Account (IRA) Charitable Rollover, both of which expired at the end of 2013.  The tuition deduction is particularly important to graduate students, the associations said, because these students are ineligible for the American Opportunity Tax Credit.  The IRA Charitable Rollover has proven a valuable charitable giving incentive that helps nonprofit organizations generate new or increased contributions.

Read More:
Letter – Extension of Expired Higher Ed Provisions (aau.edu)

AAU sent a letter last week to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee suggesting several changes for improving the Frontiers in Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act (H.R 4186).

The measure, which was approved by the panel’s Research and Technology Subcommittee on March 13, would reauthorize programs in the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

Reiterating AAU’s opposition to the bill in its current form, the letter points out that the legislation continues to “fall well short of the guiding principles for reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act endorsed last year by our association along with a number of other business, scientific, and higher education organizations,” including providing sustained and real growth in agency funding.  Among other problematic provisions, the bill would cut authorized funding for the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, and Geosciences directorates of NSF, impose duplicative and unnecessary requirements relating to scientific misconduct for NSF grantees, and extend to as much as two years or more the period before a published research article resulting from federally funded research would be freely available to the public.

Duke officials are monitoring the legislation’s progress and support AAU’s recent comments.

Read More:
AAU Letter Suggesting Changes to FIRST Act (pdf)