Five Policy Areas in DC Impacting Duke this Fall

As the school year is beginning and the government’s fiscal year is ending, expectations for an eventful fall are coming to fruition. President Trump signed a 2-year $2.7 trillion budget deal at the beginning of August and Congress left town for the month for their district work period. As the upcoming presidential election heats up, we will likely see frontrunners for the Democratic party nomination emerge, and President Trump shift into re-election mode for 2020. Economic growth will likely be impacted by Chinese relations and trade uncertainty moving forward, meanwhile, there are whispers of a potential recession around the corner.

As Congress returns to the nation’s capital in earnest following Labor Day, we will learn more about the implications of the budget deal as government funding runs out at the end of September.

Budget & Appropriations

Although the budget deal passed successfully with bipartisan support, we are paying close attention to Congress to see how the remainder of 2019 will play out. The budget deal for the next two years lifts spending caps for FY 20 and FY 21 and extends the debt limit. This passage also effectively ends the austere budget caps and sequester threat put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which was set to expire in 2021. For Duke we expect this to mean more spending on discretionary items like research.

On the tails of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, this agreement could be viewed as a sign of hope for a smoother year but much work remains in the coming weeks before the end of the current fiscal year on September 30th.

Prior to the August district work period, the House of Representatives passed ten of its twelve funding bills. The Senate stalled pending a budget agreement. Senate action is expected to kick into high gear in the coming weeks in the hopes to pass as many bills as possible before the end of the month.

House appropriators will be busy as well since the House-passed spending bills had assumed a higher spending limit for FY 20 than is contained in the Bipartisan Budget Act. Adjustments to these allocations will be necessary prior to conference negotiations. The tight timeline for finishing the FY 20 appropriations process in September means we might see a continuing resolution until the holidays.

Science Security and Foreign Influence

Concerns over the protection of intellectual property and national security from foreign influence in academia continue to receive a good deal of attention on Capitol Hill, within the administration, and in the media. Just during the summer months, the NIH, NSF and Department of Energy released guidance related to reporting requirements for outside support and participation in foreign talent recruitment programs. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education announced investigations into four schools over the reporting of foreign gifts.

Congress continues to hold hearings on these topics and several legislative proposals have been introduced in response. The annual National Defense Authorization Act has been a focal point for many of these proposals and both the House and Senate-passed versions contain language related to science and security issues. In an effort to combat some of the more onerous proposals, the House bill contains the Securing American Science and Technology Act, which has been endorsed by the higher education community, including Duke. We expect discussions concerning foreign influence to continue in Congress and science agencies throughout the fall.


The House passed “Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019”. This act removes a cap of percent quota of immigrants from one country per year for employment-based visas. The bill now sits in the Senate with the Judiciary Committee.

Moving into the fall, we look to Supreme Court for the upcoming Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) case. While a decision is not likely to come until 2020, the courts could hear the case as early as October.

Higher Education

Momentum has slowed considerably for a full-bipartisan reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. In the Senate there are three main sticking points: accountability, affordability, and Title IX. Over in the House conversations have pointed towards a December markup on a likely partisan bill in the Democratic controlled committee.


In June, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released guidance on the endowment tax rules approved in 2017. The implications of the excise tax are complex for universities and the Office of Government Relations is continuing to work to provide clarity on implications for Duke.

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