DC Digest – May 4, 2015

In Today’s Issue:

  • The Week in Washington
  • Duke Grad Student Promotes Federal Investment in Research on Capitol Hill
  • Duke Joins @FLOTUS in #ReachHigher Campaign
  • House Adopts FY16 Budget Conference Agreement
  • House Approves FY16 Energy & Water Appropriations Bill
  • Senate Judiciary Committee Leaders Introduce Patent Act
  • House Energy & Commerce Marks Up TROL Act
  • Energy & Commerce Leaders Introduce 21st Century Cures Discussion Draft

 

THE WEEK IN WASHINGTON
Iran: The Senate is scheduled to debate and vote on legislation that would allow Congress an initial 30 days to pass a resolution on a final Iran nuclear deal. The fate of the legislation, spearheaded by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), was thrown into question late last week, when Sens. Marco Rubio (R-F) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) attempted to force a vote on amendments compelling Iran to disclose the history of its nuclear program and recognize the state of Israel.

Budget: The Senate is also expected to vote on the House-passed conferenced budget resolution. The resolution will provide guidance to the Appropriations Committees as they move forward with FY16 funding bills in the coming weeks.

Spending: Fiscal 2016 budget and appropriations hearings continue in the Senate, with Department of Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin E. Dempsey testifying before the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday. Other officials scheduled to appear include Securities and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Mary Jo White, Sean Cavanaugh, deputy administrator and director of the Center for Medicare at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.

Read More:
This week: Iran, budget top agenda  (thehill.com)

DUKE GRAD STUDENT PROMOTES FEDERAL INVESTMENT IN RESEARCH ON CAPITOL HILL
First-year Masters of Engineering Management candidate, Victoria Nneji, was one of two Duke University students to attend the the CASE Workship – Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering.  The program, hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), aims to teach graduate students in STEM fields about the science and engineering policymaking that takes place across the federal government.

Read More:
Making her “CASE” (governmentrelations.duke.edu)


DUKE JOINS @FLOTUS IN #REACHHIGHER CAMPAIGN

Using the hashtags #ReachHigher and #Duke2019, Duke University has been taking to Twitter to join in the First Lady’s campaign effort to encourage high school students to attain a degree of higher education. The social media campaign culminates on May 1, College Signing Day, and encourages alumni and high school seniors to post pictures of themselves in Duke gear to celebrate #Duke2019 and the experience of higher education.

Read More:
Tweets featuring @DukeU and #ReachHigher.
Reach Higher: Complete your Education. Own your Future. (whitehouse.gov)

HOUSE ADOPTS FY16 BUDGET CONFERENCE AGREEMENT
The House of Representatives on April 30 approved the FY16 budget resolution conference report (S. Con Res 11), sending the measure to the Senate for final congressional approval. The measure provides overall guidance for spending but is not signed into law by the President. The FY16 agreement follows the spending caps enacted in the Budget Control Act for both defense and non-defense discretionary spending in FY16, but it bolsters defense spending by using the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, which does not count against the spending caps. The measure provides $96 billion for the OCO in FY16, or $38 billion more than the President requested.

HOUSE APPROVES FY16 ENERGY & WATER APPROPRIATIONS BILL
The House of Representatives last week approved its FY16 Energy & Water spending bill (H.R. 2028) on a largely party-line vote of 240-177.

The bill includes $5.1 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, which is a small increase of $29 million, or 0.6 percent, above the FY15 enacted level.

Within of the Office of Science are the following funding amounts:

Advanced Scientific Computing Research: $537.5 million, an increase of $3.4 million, or 0.6 percent, above FY15;
Basic Energy Sciences: $1.7 billion, an increase of $37 million, or 2.1 percent, above FY15;
Biological and Environmental Research: $538 million, a significant cut of $54 million, or 9.1 percent, below FY15;
Fusion Energy Sciences: $467 million, a slight increase of $100,000 over FY15. The measure would freeze funding for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) at the FY15 level of $150 million, and raise funding for the domestic fusion science program by $100,000 to $317 million.
High Energy Physics: $776 million, an increase of $10 million, or 1.3 percent, above FY15;
Nuclear Physics: $616 million, which is $20.6 million, or 3.5 percent, above FY15; and
ARPA-E: funding is frozen at the FY15 level of $280 million.

SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE LEADERS INTRODUCE PATENT ACT
A bipartisan group of Senate Judiciary Committee members, including the Committee leadership, introduced their long-awaited patent reform legislation on Wednesday, the Protecting American Talent and Entrepreneurship (PATENT) Act. The Committee also released a one-page summary and a section-by-section analysis of the bill.

The bill sponsors are Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and committee members John Cornyn (R-TX), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

The six higher education associations that have been working together on patent reform issued a statement on April 30, thanking the Senate sponsors for listening to the concerns of the higher education community in drafting the bill. The associations said they “will have improvements to suggest during the legislative process,” but noted that the bill is a “substantial improvement” over the House bill, the Innovation Act (H.R. 9), and “takes a more measured approach to addressing the abusive litigation practices of patent trolls while protecting the integrity of our patent system.”

Read More:
PATENT Act Summary (judiciary.senate.gov)
Section-by-Section Analysis (judiciary.senate.gov)
Higher Ed Statement on PATENT Act (aau.edu)

HOUSE ENERGY & COMMERCE COMMITTEE MARKS UP TROL ACT
The House Energy & Commerce Committee this week approved the Targeting Rogue and Opaque Letters (TROL) Act (H.R. 2045), without amendments. AAU and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) on April 16 issued a supportive statement on the bill:

“We appreciate…efforts to meaningfully address the abusive demand letter practices of patent trolls in a targeted fashion. ​ The TROL Act appropriately employs a practical approach to combating patent troll practices, including by authorizing the Federal Trade Commission to use its authority even more effectively to treat such demand letters as an abusive, deceptive, and potentially fraudulent business practice.”

ENERGY AND COMMERCE LEADERS INTRODUCE 21ST CENTURY CURES DISCUSSION DRAFT
Leaders of the House Energy & Commerce Committee on Wednesday released a new discussion draft of their legislation, the 21st Century Cures Act, which aims to bolster biomedical research and speed disease cures and treatments to patients through a variety of means. Among other provisions, the discussion draft would increase funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by raising authorized discretionary spending and by providing $10 billion over five years in mandatory funding, starting in FY16.

Read More:
Bipartisan Leaders Release #Cures2015 Discussion Draft as Legislative Process Continues (energycommerce)