Two Year Budget Deal Reached
On Tuesday evening, the chairs of the House and Senate Budget Committees, Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray, announced that they had reached a two-year budget agreement after weeks of deliberation. The agreement provides a total of $63 billion in sequestration relief over Fiscal Year 2014 and Fiscal Year 2015. This agreement is helpful for a number of reasons: first, it brings us some certainty as to the overall budget size, it includes an increase in spending, sequester relief is evenly split between defense and non-defense spending, and it gets us out of the continuing resolution mentality, allowing agencies to be more proactive and fund more projects.
The House passed the deal last night by a vote of 332 to 94. All Illinois House Members voted in support of the agreement with the exception of Rep. Jan Schakowsky. To read the statement she issued about her vote, click here. The Senate is expected to pass the measure next week, and then immediately thereafter, the Appropriations Committees will begin writing the individual appropriations bills. According to news reports, the separate funding bills will likely be combined into a single omnibus bill that falls under the agreed-upon discretionary top line of $1.012 trillion. The temporary spending bill expires on January 15, meaning Congress would need to approve the omnibus before that date to avoid another shutdown.
The University of Illinois has been heavily engaged in advocating for sequester relief among Congressional leaders. As you may recall, a couple weeks ago, Chancellor Phyllis Wise and a select group of AAU and APLU university presidents and chancellors helped lead the charge on Capitol Hill in meetings with the architects of the budget deal as well as other significant Members.
Earlier this week, President Robert Easter led a delegation letter with the presidents of Northwestern University, Northern Illinois University, and Southern Illinois University. The letter described the destructive impact that sequestration has already had on our campuses, and urged our Illinois Members to support a bipartisan compromise that reversed as much of the sequester as possible and applied relief equally to defense and non-defense spending.
Our office will continue to work with the Illinois delegation to press for complete sequester relief through 2015 and beyond.
Farm Bill Update
On Tuesday, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas announced that he would be filing legislation to temporarily extend the Farm Bill until January 31, 2014 to allow additional time to resolve outstanding issues. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and other Senate Democratic leaders have expressed opposition to doing a short-term extension because they want to keep the pressure on negotiators to finish a comprehensive bill. The Farm Bill conference committee plans to meet the first full week of January.
USDA NIFA DIRECTOR VISITS URBANA
USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Director Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy was in Urbana today for a full day of meetings and presentations sponsored by Urbana's College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (ACES).
Pictured left to right: College of ACES Dean Robert Hauser, NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy, Associate Dean for Academic Programs Laurie Kramer, Associate Dean for Research Neal Merchen, and Associate Dean and Director for Extension and Outreach George Czapar.
The Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights
Sponsor: Senator Dick Durbin
Quote by Senator Durbin: “Student loan debt has tripled over the last decade...With student loan debt far outpacing the rise in starting salaries, many borrowers find that despite their best efforts, they are unable to make their monthly payments. And when lenders refuse to work with them on a repayment plan, they begin a downward spiral that is difficult to turn around. These borrowers and their families should not have to face the burden of additional costs because they cannot resolve errors quickly or gain access to programs meant to help them. The Student Loan Bill of Rights will ensure that all borrowers will have access to basic rights and protections.”
GRANT AWARD ANNOUNCEMENT
On Thursday, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Energy (DOE) announced the recipients of $8 million in research grants to develop plant feedstocks for bioenergy. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was one of the seven projects selected. Ray Ming, who is a Professor of Plant Biology, is the Principal Investigator (PI) on the DOE grant, which totals $998,564. To read more about the project, click here.
Jon Pyatt and Melissa Haas
OGR Federal Relations