The House and Senate were both in session this week. While appropriations bills dominated the legislative agenda in both chambers, most of the oxygen on the Hill was squeezed out by a major House leadership race. This was, however, a very active week for the University of Illinois in our nation's capital.
Hiccups in the Appropriations Process
In an effort to expedite the appropriations process, Senate leadership attempted to bundle the NSF-funding bill with two other politically popular bills—transportation and agriculture. The bill failed to reach the floor amid partisan bickering over amendments. While both parties profess they want to pursue another path forward, there's less optimism that the Senate will take meaningful steps on appropriations this year if it can't move bills that normally have broad support. Both chambers' appropriations committees took up their own energy and water spending bill as well as a spending bill for state and foreign operations. The House passed a defense appropriations bill with significantly lower funding lines for defense research and development.
Illinois’ Roskam Falls Short in Leadership Race
The House was distracted this week with Republican leadership races for two top posts—Majority Leader and Majority Whip. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), currently Majority Whip, moved up one spot to Majority Leader. The more contentious and unpredictable race was for Majority Whip, where the current Chief Deputy Whip and highest ranking Illinois Member in the House, Rep. Peter Roskam, competed against two more conservative members. The race hinged more on geography than leadership abilities. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), with strong backing from Republican Study Committee members and southern members, ultimately edged out Rep. Roskam. Rep. Aaron Schock, from Roskam’s home state and colleague on the Ways and Means committee, took a political risk in whipping votes for Rep. Scalise. There is speculation that he could become the next Chief Deputy Whip, which could provide an Illinois spot at the leadership table.
All of these leadership roles have the potential to be short-lived, because the entire leadership team must be re-elected after the midterms and the start of the new Congress in January.
ILLINOIS IN DC
UIC Students Champion UIC's Bid for Presidential Library
On Monday, a delegation of students and campus administrators from the University of Illinois at Chicago were in DC to deliver UIC's official bid to host the Obama Presidential Library to legislators and the Barack Obama Foundation.
UIC Student Trustee Danielle Leibowitz led the delegation of UIC students—who were from a variety of backgrounds, representing the rich diversity of UIC—in sharing passion and enthusiasm for UIC's aspiration to become the future home of the presidential library. The group included Michael Belmonte (a medical student interested in health disparities), Kris Fuentes Cortes (a communications student and Hispanic activist), Juawan Hall (a pre-law student and veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) Arthur Nishimoto (a doctoral student in computer science specializing in virtual-reality applications), and Mikita Lee (a public health student and community health volunteer). Mary Case (University Librarian and Dean of Libraries and Co-Chair of UIC's Obama Presidential Library Steering Committee), Barbara Henley (UIC Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs) and Charles Leeks (North Lawndale community representative), accompanied the students. UIC has partnered with North Lawndale in presenting a potential site for the library, which would yield significant economic development for the area.
The highlight of the day was a meeting with Alyssa Mastromonaco from the Barack Obama Foundation, which is responsible for planning the development of the presidential library. The student and community delegation expressed the "shared destiny" between their personal backgrounds, the priorities of UIC as a diverse, urban-serving, public research institution, and the accomplishments and legacies of President Obama. They shared the proposal's "Obama Plan" and its promise to help transform Chicago's West side and the North Lawndale community. The student delegation also spent significant time on the Hill to share their story and proposal with the Illinois delegation, including the offices of Representatives Danny Davis, Luis Gutierrez, Mike Quigley, and Sen. Dick Durbin. Throughout the day, they interviewed with CBS (see 1:50), NBC, the Chicago-Sun Times, Crain's Chicago Business, and WILL radio.
UIC College of Education Early-Career Faculty Meet With Federal Agencies, Capitol Hill
Four professors from UIC's College of Education came to DC earlier this week to meet with federal agencies and Congressional offices to share insights from their research. The group included Nathan Phillips, who studies geographies of literacy and learning, Aerika Brittan, who studies the complex relationships that exist between ethnic minority youth and their environment, Federico Waitoller, who studies urban inclusive education, and Stacey Horn, who studies prejudice and discrimination related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Chris Barkan Testifies on UTC Program, Rail Research
Dr. Chris Barkan, Urbana College of Engineering Professor and Director of Urbana's National University Rail (NURail) Center, testified before a research and technology subcommittee in the House Science Committee Wednesday. Illinois Congressman Dan Lipinski, who is the ranking member of the research subcommittee, extended the invitation to Dr. Barkan to share his expertise on the University Transportation Center (UTC) program and rail research. The hearing—the first on transportation research since 2011—focused on the future of surface transportation. Click here to read Dr. Barkan's testimony and view the hearing webcast.
The Department of Energy's Office of Science announced another round of awards for FY 2014 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs). Prairie Research Institutes' Rob Finley led a proposal for one of the 32 projects awarded funding (out of over 200 proposals) for an EFRC and will serve as the EFRC director. The grant will support a project to discover new basic science solutions that address uncertainties in current technology at field carbon dioxide storage demonstration projects. Congratulations, Rob!
Coinciding with the third anniversary of President Obama's Materials Genome Initiative (MGI), the White House announced that Urbana's National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) is going to launch an open Materials Data Facility pilot program to spur data access and sharing. NCSA will be partnering with Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago. The White House also released a report summarizing MGI regional workshops that were held across the country, one of which was held on the Urbana campus.
ONLY IN DC
Beat the Press
Just days after Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet sat down with UIC's Obama Presidential Library delegation and published an article about their advocacy, your correspondent found her in full uniform, along with other women from the DC Press Corps, ready to face off against Members of Congress in the Congressional Women's Softball game. The softball game raised $150,000 for the Young Survival Coalition, an organization that provides resources and support to young women diagnosed with breast cancer. Lynn Sweet's single, which drove in a run, wasn't enough to overcome the Representatives, who won 10-5. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL), last year's MVP, helped lead the Members to victory.
Jon Pyatt and Melissa Haas
OGR Federal Relations