Only ten days remain until the election, and the Senate majority hangs in the balance. A strong anti-incumbent mood permeates the country. Republicans are strongly favored to pick up seats in the Senate, but fluctuating polls and shifting battlegrounds make predicting Senate control uncertain.
In addition to the down-to-the-wire Governor's race, Illinois is home to several competitive congressional races. While Sen. Dick Durbin enjoys a significant lead, two incumbent Democrats in the House face tough challenges.
State representative Mike Bost is giving incumbent Rep. Bill Enyart all he can handle in their southern Illinois district. Enyart is one of the nation's most endangered Democrats, despite a reliably Democratic district. Former congressman Bob Dold is giving incumbent Rep. Brad Schneider a very tough race in a rematch of their 2012 clash. Schneider edged Dold by just a few thousand votes in this North Shore district two years ago. Both seats are pure toss-ups.
While Reps. Rodney Davis, Cheri Bustos, and Bill Foster also face challengers, polling shows them more likely to prevail.
Which party controls the Senate after Nov. 4 will have an impact on how much work gets done in the lame-duck session. Left undone: not a single FY15 spending bill has cleared both chambers, and Congress must act to keep the government funded by Dec. 11.
Anticipating that Republicans will take over the majority in the Senate, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated that he would like to approve all big ticket items during the lame duck session in order to allow Senate Republicans to have a "clean slate" going into the new Congress. Presumably, this would include some kind of funding bill--preferably an omnibus appropriations bill that could provide funding for the current fiscal year and take federal agencies off auto-pilot. However, he would likely have to overcome the strong objections of Senate conservatives, who neither want a lame-duck Congress passing a spending blueprint or confirming the next Attorney General.
Ebola Research Funding a Political Football
With Republicans already pressuring the Administration to impose a temporary travel ban with nations in west Africa, NIH Director Francis Collins created a political firestorm last week when he suggested that declining federal research dollars inhibited an Ebola vaccine.
"NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It's not like we suddenly woke up and thought, 'Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here,'" Collins told the Huffington Post. "Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would've gone through clinical trials and would have been ready."
Anthony Fauci, the head of NIH's institute on infectious disease, distanced himself from those remarks after a conservative outcry.
Rep. Jack Kingston, Chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NIH, demanded in a letter to Director Collins to be provided with evidence of Ebola grants that were not funded over the past decade due to lack of funds. Not to be outdone, others in Congress are highlighting the Ebola fears as another reason to increase biomedical research funding during the lame-duck session.
UIC's College of Medicine in Rockford will educate its community Monday. Dean Alex Stagnaro-Green and Professor of Medicine Gary Rifkin will share their Ebola expertise. Husband and wife duo Nelli and Matthew Westercamp--both UIC alums--are working with the Center for Disease Control to battle the disease in Atlanta, Uganda, and Liberia.
White House to Host Another College Access Summit
On December 4, the White House will be holding its second “College Opportunity Day of Action.” The first summit was held in January and included announcements from more than 100 colleges and universities and 40 organizations regarding initiatives to increase college opportunity. This time, the four major focus areas for commitments include: college completion collaboration, K-16 collaboration, K-12/postsecondary counseling and advising, and STEM degree production.
Urbana's Jim Anderson Delivers Prestigious Brown Lecture
Last night, Dr. James Anderson, a distinguished scholar on the history of U.S. education—particularly the history of African American education and racial desegregation—presented the 11th Annual Brown Lecture in Education Research. Since 2004, the American Educational Research Association (AERA) has hosted Brown Lectures to commemorate the anniversaries of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. This year marks the 60th anniversary of this seminal Supreme Court case.
Dr. Anderson delivered his lecture to a capacity crowd of 700 people in person, as well as to thousands more online. His lecture, entitled "A Long Shadow: The American Pursuit of Political Justice and Education Equality," explored the legislative disenfranchisement of African Americans post-Emancipation. Anderson asserted that today's voter ID laws are modern day remnants of that disenfranchisement cast in that same "long shadow."
Dr. Anderson serves as Head of the Urbana College of Education's Department of Education Policy, Organization & Leadership.
Urbana College of Ed Leaders Talk Access, Diversity Pathways
Many Illinois supporters traveled to DC to join Dr. Anderson for his moment in the policy sun, including Urbana College of Education Dean Mary Kalantzis, Associate Dean Abd El Khalick, and Profs. William Trent, Debra Bragg, and Dorothy Espelage. Trent, Bragg, and Espelage are all Gutgsell Professors.
While in DC, Kalantzis, Abd El Khalick, and Trent promoted Dr. Anderson's work and the College's efforts to increase diversity in meetings with associations and federal agencies, including APLU's Commission on Access, Diversity, and Excellence (CADE), NSF's Division of Human Resource Development, the United Negro College Fund, and the Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences.
*The webcast will soon be available on the AERA website.
ACES Professor Participates in White House Dialogue on Women Leaders in Agriculture
Urbana Assistant Professor of Agricultural Science Education, Erica Thieman, participated in a discussion hosted by the White House Rural Council on women's leadership in agriculture. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden attended the event.
Jon Pyatt and Melissa Haas
OGR Federal Relations