Government Shutdown Appears More Likely
The end of the fiscal year is just days away, and there is no agreement in sight that would keep the government funded. This is due to disagreement between the House and Senate about whether to defund the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Last week, the Republican-led House voted to condition government funding on defunding the President's signature legislative achievement. Today, the Democratic-led Senate stripped out that provision and sent a "clean" funding bill back to the House. The Senate bill passed by a party-line vote of 54-44 and would only fund the government through November 15.
Top House Republican leaders have rejected the notion of passing a clean Senate bill, increasing the possibility of a government shutdown next week. If the House changes the bill (for example, by delaying Obamacare rather than defunding it), the Senate’s arcane, time-sensitive rules make swift consideration unlikely and a shutdown more likely. The House GOP may also reserve the option of passing a clean one-week funding bill to give the parties more time to negotiate and avoid a shutdown. The House is scheduled to reconvene tomorrow to vote on a measure. Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have not spoken in the past 24 hours.
Last week, the Office of Management and Budget Director, Sylvia Burwell, distributed a memorandum to the heads of executive departments and agencies in order to start preparing for a potential government shutdown. The memo advised departments and agencies to update their contingency plans in case there is a lapse of appropriations. It directed agency officials to determine which agency functions are required by law to continue and which personnel are necessary to remain on staff in the event of a shutdown to handle these operations. You can find out how some agencies have responded here.
Unless the shutdown is prolonged, impact on universities is expected to be mild. Most financial aid awards have already been made, Medicare and Medicaid payments to the hospital will continue, and existing research grant awards will not be affected. However, according to our federal consultants Lewis-Burke Associates, there are two instances where the university should be proactive: (1) large ongoing arrangements with minimal cash reserves that depend on federal reimbursements; and (2) forthcoming awards that depend on federal funding to begin. Anyone in those circumstances should contact the Office of Federal Relations.
Stay tuned. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide further updates as events warrant.
Debt Ceiling to be Reached October 17
Speaker Boehner’s tough words on the spending bill came as he and his leadership team look to the next battle over raising the nation’s debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced Wednesday that the nation is likely to surpass its borrowing authority on Oct. 17 — meaning an even more nerve-wracking deadline is just around the corner.
While a government shutdown would have some negative economic effects, it is far less dangerous than a default, which would happen if the nation exceeds its borrowing authority. A default would increase interest rates, harm the stock market, cripple consumer confidence, and could have calamitous financial impacts at home and abroad.
Helium Crisis Averted
Our nation's helium supply is fortunately on far more stable ground now that the House and the Senate both agreed to final bill language that will keep our federal helium reserve operational. H.R. 527, the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act, now heads to the President's desk for signature, which will effectively prevent the reserve from shutting down. This comes as a relief to manufacturers, scientific organizations and universities like ours, which rely upon helium for critical research and health missions. We would like to give a special thanks to all of those who personally called their Senators and Representatives to help us achieve this positive result.
ILLINOIS IN WASHINGTON
The annual Paul H. Douglas Award for Ethics in Government ceremony was held in DC this past Tuesday. Co-hosted by the University of Illinois’ Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) and Senator Dick Durbin, this year's award honored former U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative, Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). President Robert Easter and IGPA Director Chris Mooney made remarks in honor of Olympia Snowe, who was highly-respected and admired by both her colleagues and her constituents for her bipartisanship, pragmatism, and independence. The event was largely coordinated by IGPA Assistant Director Jim Paul and his team.
While in DC, President Easter and Vice President for Academic Affairs Christophe Pierre sat down with Senator Mark Kirk’s office to articulate the University of Illinois’ priorities for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act as well as UI's views on the Administration’s college affordability and accountability proposals.
President Easter also met with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to discuss initiatives that UI is undertaking to boost innovation and economic development in the State of Illinois.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced its 2013 University Transportation Center (UTC) grant recipients, and listed the University of Illinois on five of these UTC's. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's National University Rail (NURail) Center led a consortium that received a $1.4 million UTC grant to address rail issues related to infrastructure and operational safety. The Urban Transportation Center at UIC is a partner in that consortium. Senator Dick Durbin and Congressman Rodney Davis led delegation support letters for our application.
H.R. 1201: Training Tomorrow’s Doctors Today Act
- Sponsor: Rep. Aaron Schock
- IL Delegation Cosponsors: Rep. Rodney Davis, Rep. Bill Enyart, Rep. Dan Lipinski
- Bill Description: Addresses the looming physician shortage by increasing the number of Graduate Medical Education (GME) slots.
- Introduced: 3/14/2013
- Current Status: Referred to the House Committees on Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce.
- College of Medicine Dean Dimitri Azar has advocated for this legislation within our delegation.
Jon Pyatt and Melissa Haas
OGR Federal Relations