DC Digest – March 31, 2017

In Today’s Issue:
  • NIH “Indirect Costs” Attract Attention
  • Possible Omnibus Funding Bill
  • Tax Reform
  • Diversity Cuts at Ed
  • H-1B Cap Season
  • FAFSA Down
  • Travel Ban’s Ban Appealed


On Tuesday March 28, the Trump Administration released a budget proposal for FY 2017 that asks for $18 billion in cuts across most of the federal government. A cut of $1.2 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is one of the three largest proposed reductions to individual agencies.

The next day, HHS Secretary Tom Price appeared before a House appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the NIH budget and defended the Trump Administration’s 20 percent cut to the NIH, arguing that 30 percent of its grant making is used for indirect expenses rather than actual research.


In response to the testimony given by HHS Secretary Tom Price, Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who chairs the Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee, rebuked Trump’s proposal to cut NIH funding. Cole said the cuts would leave the nation less secure, and that he will push for major revisions to Trump’s budget plan.

“Maintaining the ability to respond to terrorist attacks and respond to unexpected things like Ebola and Zika are extraordinarily important,” Cole said. “You’re far more likely to die from a pandemic than from a terrorist attack.”

The Duke Office of Government Relations is closely monitoring this and other budget issues and will provide additional updates as the appropriations process moves forward.

A State-by-State Evaluation of NIH Economic Impact

On March 28, United for Medical Research (UMR) released new data showing the powerful impact on the U.S. economy of research funded by NIH. In FY16, NIH-funded research supported nearly 380,000 jobs and $64.8 billion in economic activity.

The analysis includes a two-page summary of the findings, as well as an interactive map that shows the jobs and economic impact by state.


Senators from both sides of the aisle are brokering a deal on a fiscal 2017 omnibus funding package that will “most likely” be attached to the defense spending measure the House passed this month, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told reporters yesterday March 30.

But Also…

Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)  — who serves as chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that handles funding for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education — ruled out the White House’s last-minute attempt to cut $18 billion in fiscal 2017 funding.


With healthcare possibly on the legislative backburner for now, the White House and House Republicans are begining to assemble tax reform platforms.

Charitable Seiving

Colleges and universities will also be monitoring changes to how the tax code treats charitable giving, an important source of their funding. Education groups will want to stay tuned in to whether Congress continues to exempt from income tax up to $5,250 in educational assistance provided by employers.

Duke OGR staff have already been involved in conversations with policymakers about the value of defending charitable giving laws and are watching this situation closely.

Student Debt

A range of tax benefits used by students and families to pay for college — as well as to repay their loans— will likely be up for discussion in a tax overhaul. Those include the American Opportunity Tax Credit, an Obama-era benefit which was made permanent in December 2015, the Lifetime Learning Credit, and the Tuition Deduction. A tax deduction for the interest paid on student loans has been on the chopping block in previous Republican tax reform proposals.


Secretary DeVos’s Education Department has ended a $12 million Obama-era grant program meant to help school districts boost socio-economic diversity.

From Mixes to Nixes


On Monday March 27, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will start to accept petitions for H-1B visas, heralding the start of what is known as ‘cap season.’ It moves quickly. Last year, USCIS gathered more than 236,000 visa petitions in just five business days — enough to shut down the pipeline. The cap is set at 85,000 new visas (65,000 general H-1Bs and 20,000 for people with advanced degrees) and the winners are chosen by lottery.


The online tool that helps students apply for federal financial aid will remain unavailable until later this year, the Education Department and Internal Revenue Service announced on Thursday, March 30.

Financial Aid Gets Waylaid


The Trump administration is appealing the broadest judicial order blocking President Trump’s revised travel ban.

The Justice Department filed a formal notice Thursday appealing [Hawaii] U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson’s preliminary injunction suspending Trump’s Executive Order that sought to halt the issuance of visas to citizens of six Muslim-majority countries and held up refugee admissions from across the globe.