Farm Bill Signed by President Obama, Now Law
Following last week's passage in the House, the farm bill conference report was taken up early this week by the Senate. The Senate approved the conference report by an overwhelming vote of 68 to 32 on Tuesday. Both Senator Durbin and Senator Kirk supported the bill. The measure contains several research provisions favored by the university.
Today, President Obama traveled to East Lansing, Michigan to deliver remarks at Michigan State University about the importance of the Farm Bill to America’s economy. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), an MSU alum and Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, was instrumental to its passage.
Veterans’ In-State Tuition Bill Passes House
On Monday, the House of Representatives unanimously voted to expand veterans’ educational benefits. Under this approach, public universities would be required to offer in-state rates for tuition and fees to all veterans or face a financial penalty. Members reasoned that veterans often have no control over where they serve, rendering them incapable of meeting state residency requirements. Instead, veterans would only need to demonstrate an intent to become a resident.
The measure now heads to the Senate. The Illinois General Assembly already passed a more generous version of the bill last year, so the potential impact on the University of Illinois is expected to be minimal.
House GOP Leaders Flag Caution on Immigration Reform
After last week’s release of broad immigration principles raised hopes of passing comprehensive immigration reform, two GOP leaders this week pushed back and advised caution. Both Budget Committee Chair (and former Vice Presidential nominee) Paul Ryan and Speaker John Boehner stated an unwillingness to move forward due to a lack of trust in President Obama to faithfully execute the law. Other prominent conservatives urged holding off on reforms because Republicans could control the Senate next year.
Debt Ceiling Remains Final Budgetary Hurdle
The nation’s borrowing limit needs to be lifted by the end of the month, but there is no clear path ahead to do so. Republicans remain divided about whether to attach spending or policy concessions as a condition to lifting the debt ceiling. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats have united around a clean debt limit increase. Only seven legislative days remain.
After the government shutdown in October, neither party wants to toy with potentially damaging world financial markets or the nation's credit rating and borrowing authority. After passing a compromise budget in December and omnibus appropriations bill last month, the debt ceiling is the final budgetary hurdle to clear that could return the Capitol to some sense of budgetary normalcy.
ILLINOIS IN DC
The University of Illinois' chief academic officers, Vice President for Academic Affairs Christophe Pierre, Visiting Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Richard Wheeler, Urbana Provost Ilesanmi Adesida, UIC Provost Lon Kaufman, and UIS Provost Lynn Pardie were in DC today to engage both the Administration and the Illinois delegation on priorities pertaining to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). They began the morning with a White House meeting with Ajita Talwaker Menon from the Domestic Policy Council. Then they migrated over to Capitol Hill to meet with Senator Kirk's and Senator Durbin's top education advisors. Before concluding the day, the group participated in a panel discussion to communicate what UI is doing in the areas of affordability, access, completion, innovation, and accountability. The panel discussion was attended by 15 of Illinois' Congressional offices, and included a thoughtful exchange of perspectives and objectives for the reauthorization process.
The UI LABS-led team continues to await news from the Department of Defense on the $70 million advanced manufacturing grant application. We now anticipate news sometime this month (February).
Jon Pyatt and Melissa Haas
OGR Federal Relations