Congress Overwhelmingly Passes Omnibus Funding Bill
Just weeks after a prolonged government shutdown in October, both the House and Senate passed an omnibus appropriations bill that returns Congress to some semblance of budgetary normalcy. President Obama, noting that the agreement “unwinds some of the damaging cuts caused by sequestration,” is expected to sign the measure, which passed by overwhelming margins in both chambers and was supported by every member from Illinois who voted.
Federal programs that support university-based research and education received considerable relief from sequestration, with significant variation among agencies and programs. Some agencies, like USDA, NASA, and DOE Office of Science saw slight increases to their budgets. Others, like NIH and NSF, were funded below their FY13 pre-sequester levels.
The omnibus agreement not only avoids another government shutdown, but it also marks a return to “regular order” and a reassertion of congressional power to set spending priorities across all twelve appropriations bills. Importantly, the agreement allows for “new starts” for new programs and takes the agencies off autopilot for the first time since 2011.
The measure also removes the prohibition on political science research at NSF.
For a more detailed look at the numbers, additional information is available in the updated AAU FY14 Funding Priorities table on the AAU website.
We learned this week that House Republicans have been crafting a set of "immigration reform principles" behind the scenes. Speaker Boehner has indicated that he wants the principles released prior to Wednesday's State of the Union address.
Also this week, Senator Patty Murray and Rep. Jared Polis introduced federal legislation which would incentivize states to provide in-state tuition to undocumented students who graduate from American high schools. It would do so by creating a grant program that would give need-based student financial aid to states that set equitable in-state tuition rates or provide state financial aid to DREAMers.
WHITE HOUSE HOLDS COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY SUMMIT
Yesterday, the White House convened college presidents and business leaders at a day-long summit that centered around efforts to expand college opportunity, particularly for low-income students. There were roughly 100 colleges and universities and 40 organizations who participated in this event, which unveiled the new commitments that the participants would be making to augment the success of low-income students. A complete report was issued by the White House detailing the actions that would be taken to address under-matching and to improve outcomes. The University of Illinois at Chicago was referenced in the report because UIC will be partnering with others in developing and implementing program enhancements for STEM degrees as a result of a grant from Complete College America that was awarded to the state. Vice President for Academic Affairs Christophe Pierre will be sending a letter to the President next week which will describe the initiatives that our own campuses are taking.
Earlier this week President Obama was in Raleigh, NC to announce that the Department of Energy-funded wide bandgap semiconductor institute will be awarded to the team led by North Carolina State University.
As of today, the Department of Defense (DOD) has not announced winners for the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDI). We could hear something next week. The announcement could also slip until after the President’s State of the Union address. The UI LABS-led team has every reason to believe it is still under active consideration for the award by DOD.
UI OPPOSES ISRAELI ACADEMIC BOYCOTT
In response to a call by some scholarly organizations to boycott Israeli academic institutions, the University of Illinois released a statement opposing the boycott. Our higher education associations issued similar statements. In Congress, Rep. Peter Roskam (IL-06) led a bipartisan letter that was signed by 134 Members of Congress to the American Studies Association’s President condemning the boycott.
UI TRANSPORTATION LEADERS IN DC
The Transportation Research Board (TRB) 93rd Annual Meeting took place in DC this week, which brought in transportation leaders from all over the country. The University of Illinois had strong representation from faculty, staff, student, and alumni. There were events hosted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC) and the University of Illinois at Chicago Urban Transportation Center. Urbana's RailTEC Executive Director Chris Barkan and UIC's UTC Executive Director Steve Schlickman were among the many representing UI.
Jon Pyatt and Melissa Haas
OGR Federal Relations