DC Digest – November 18, 2013

In Today’s Issue:

  • This Week in Washington
  • CBO Issues Annual Report on Reducing the Deficit
  • House, Senate Hold Hearings on Financial Aid
  • House Hearing: ACA’s Impact on Education
  • First Lady’s New Initiative: College, ‘Whatever it Takes’


THIS WEEK IN WASHINGTON

  • Ongoing News: The Congressional Budget Conference is conducting “painfully slow” negotiations, according to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. News reports indicate that Democrats continue to insist that closing tax loopholes should be part of the means of offsetting the cost of eliminating or reducing the sequester, while Republicans want the offsets to consist entirely of alternative spending cuts.
  • Healthcare.gov: The Senate has yet to take action regarding canceled health care plans; however, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) have introduced competing legislation addressing the issue. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) is drafting a bill which would delay for six months the deadline for individuals to purchase insurance. He could introduce the bill as early as today.
  • Foreign Policy: On Wednesday, multi-lateral negotiations over a deal to limit Iran’s controversial nuclear program resume in Geneva, Switzerland. On Friday,  Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Jerusalem for a second time this month due to rising tension with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the potential deal. Also on Friday, the President of Morocco meets with President Obama at the White House.
  • Also in the Senate: The Senate will debate the National Defense Authorization Act for FY14 this week. The bill is expected to have a number of controversial provisions addressing such hot-button topics such as the National Security Agency; sexual assault in the military; Iran sanctions; and funding just to name a few.
  • Economic Markers:  Thirteen economic reports to be released this week.  Highlights: retail sales, auto sales, Halloween sales, CPI, and home sales. On Wednesday, minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting will be released.

Read More:
Marco Rubio Plans a Bill to Extend Health Care Deadline in Wake of Glitchy Website (Miami New Times)
House approves ‘Keep Your Plan’ Obamacare bill; 39 Dems defect (The Hill)
Strains With Israel Over Iran Snarl U.S. Goals in Mideast (Wall Street Journal)
NSA, Sex Assault and Iran on Tap During Defense Debate (Roll Call)
It’s a Busy Week for the Economy As the Government Works Off Its Data Backlog — Here’s your Complete Preview (Business Insider)


CBO ISSUES ANNUAL REPORT ON REDUCING THE DEFICIT
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on November 13 issued a report on options for reducing the federal budget deficit, including both tax and spending policies.  The 103 options listed in the report deal with such areas of interest to research universities as Pell Grants, student loans, space exploration, the national endowments for the humanities and the arts, and mandatory health programs that affect hospitals.

The revenue section includes such options as curtailing the deduction for charitable giving, limiting the value of itemized deductions, and eliminating certain tax preferences for education expenses.

Read More:
Options for Reducing Deficit (cbo.gov)


HOUSE, SENATE HOLD HEARINGS ON FINANCIAL AID

Both the House and the Senate held hearings last week in preparation for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearings looked at options for simplifying federal financial aid programs and the importance of doing so to expand access to higher education. The “one grant, one loan, one tax credit” slogan surfaced at both hearings, and there was bipartisan agreement that the 68-page Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is so complex and burdensome that it is a hindrance rather than a help to students and families.

Read More:
Senate Committee Discusses Rebuilding Student Aid from Scratch (Inside Higher Ed)
House Hearing – Keeping College Within Reach (edworkforce.gov)
Senate Hearing – Ensuring Access to Higher Education (help.senate.gov)
Stop Penalizing Poor College Students – NY Times Op-Ed Written by Witnesses (New York Times)


HOUSE HEARING: ACA’S IMPACT ON EDUCATION
While much of Washington was focused on the general rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the House Education and the Workforce Committee on Thursday looked at the specific issue of the new law’s effect on colleges, universities and K-12 education.

A major focus of the hearing concerned the impact of the ACA on adjunct faculty and student employees, and the need for final regulatory guidance to ensure institutions can comply with the ACA’s employer mandate.

Read More:
Effects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on Schools, Colleges, and Universities (edworkforce.gov)
Lawmakers Told of Healthcare Law’s Harmful Effects on Adjuncts and Colleges (Chronicle)


FIRST LADY’S NEW INITIATIVE: COLLEGE, ‘WHATEVER IT TAKES’

Michelle Obama urged high school students on Tuesday to increase the opportunities available to them by pursuing higher education as she kicked off an initiative that seeks to increase the number of low-income students graduating from college and signaled her plans to focus more on administration policy during the president’s second term.

Read More:
First Lady’s New Initiative: College, ‘Whatever it Takes’ (New York Times)
Michelle Obama’s Push to get Everyone to Apply to College isn’t as Obvious as You May Think (Bloomberg)