The lame duck session kicked off last week, with more than 60 newly-elected Members in town for New Member Orientation. Representatives-Elect Bob Dold and Mike Bost got a crash course on Hill operations so they can hit the ground running in January. Sen. Dick Durbin was also re-elected to the number two position in the Democratic Senate Leadership.
This week, the House held elections to determine key chairmanships, but it was President Obama's executive order on immigration that absorbed all the limelight. That decision continues to reverberate across the political and policy landscape.
Immigration Executive Order Will Help Students ...
In his address to the nation last night, President Barack Obama announced unilateral changes to immigration law that will impact universities. The announcement is a major expansion of the President's 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for DREAMers--those brought to the United States illegally as children.
An estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants will enjoy deferred action on deportation for three years and be able to work and return home after traveling abroad. The order expands eligibility among DREAMers, meaning more undocumented students will qualify for relief--and for a longer period of time--than were permitted by DACA. Additionally, international STEM students will be able to work for longer periods on student visas after graduation. Universities may be expected to track the employment status of international STEM graduates on student visas, but those details are still fuzzy.
The executive order is limited in that undocumented students will not qualify for federal student financial aid. They would qualify for in-state tuition only if mandated by state law. Illinois law does not yet allow for in-state tuition for undocumented Illinois-resident students, although President Robert A. Easter and a UIC-based task force are trying to change that.
... but Casts a Shadow over Congress
Republican members in Illinois' congressional delegation—including Reps. Rodney Davis, Peter Roskam, Aaron Schock, Randy Hultgren, Adam Kinzinger, and John Shimkus—took the unusual step of a joint press release, condemning the executive order as a "lawless" circumvention of congressional authority.
The executive order could have additional political consequences, including the potential to upend year-end discussions around government funding. The government is currently funded only through Dec. 11, and Congressional leaders had been working diligently on an omnibus appropriations bill that would fund the government for the balance of the fiscal year.
Rather than funding the government for such an extended period, and in order to reserve legislative opportunities to block the President's efforts, some Republicans may now want to pass a short-term continuing resolution. Some of the least pragmatic voices have urged a government shutdown as a response.
Soon-to-be Majority Leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, warned that an executive order would “poison the well” and be like “waving a red flag in front of a bull.” Now that President Obama has taken this action, we will wait to see how Republicans react. Prospects for a long-term omnibus bill that prioritize higher education and research hang in the balance.
Big Ten Financial Aid Directors Write to Ed Committees on Perkins
The Big Ten Financial Aid Directors, including Urbana's Dan Mann, sent letters to the leaders of the House and Senate education committees, asking Congress to delay the expiration of the Perkins Loan program until it's able to review all existing student financial programs and complete the Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization process. More than 1,100 students from the Urbana campus were Perkins loan recipients during the 2012 - 2013 school year.
Senate education committee chairman Tom Harkin released another iteration of legislation to reauthorize HEA yesterday, which builds off of the initial draft he released this past June. Among other provisions, it calls for reauthorizing campus-based aid programs (SEOG, Work Study, and Perkins). With Sen. Harkin retiring at the end of the year, his bill is unlikely to advance, but it will serve as a basis for discussions next Congress.
UIC-Led Coalition Hosts NIH, NSF & ED for Discussions in DC
The Inter-University Program for Latino Research (IUPLR), a national consortium of 25 university-based research and teaching centers devoted to supporting Latino scholars and leaders, held its annual meeting in DC. IUPLR promotes collaborative, interdisciplinary, and comparative research on U.S. Latino groups, and is currently headquartered at the University of Illinois at Chicago under the leadership of Dr. Maria de los Angeles ("Nena") Torres.
As part of their annual meeting, OGR helped organize panel discussions that brought in representatives from various federal agencies and associations.
The first panel focused on federal agency funding opportunities for HSI and emerging HSI institutions. It featured representatives from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Education (ED), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Speakers included Dr. Sylvia James, the Division Director of the Division of Human Resource Development in NSF's Directorate for Education and Human Resources; Dr. Ralph Hines, Director of ED's Hispanic-Serving Institutions Division; and Dr. Michael Sesma, Chief of the Postdoctoral Training Branch for the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity at NIH’s National Institute for General Medical Sciences.
The second panel centered around internship opportunities for students in the DC-area. Speakers included Sara Biggs, Director of the Office of Admissions and Institutional Relations at The Washington Center as well as Nick Catanzaro, Director of Federal Relations at The Washington Center; Jonathan Santeliz, Executive Director of the HACU National Internship Program at the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU); and Rey Decerega, Director of Leadership Programs at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
UIC Prof Headlines Depression Briefing
With strong Congressional interest in the President's BRAIN initiative and other initiatives to advance biomedical cures, the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus hosted a briefing to examine the struggle, the stigma, and the science of depression.
Dr. Mark Rasenick, whose research has helped identify a biomarker for depression, spoke at the briefing. He serves in the leadership of UIC’s recently launched Center on Depression and Resilience, and is a Professor of Physiology & Biophysics and Psychiatry at the UIC College of Medicine. He was introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky and discussed the interface of biology, depression, and the brain.
Following the briefing, Dr. Rasenick met with the office of Senator Mark Kirk to update them on the Center's opening and discuss collaboration on brain research initiatives.
NEWS & ANNOUNCEMENTS
Federal Lawmakers Welcome President-elect Killeen
On Wednesday, several Members from Illinois congressional delegation personally extended a warm welcome to UI's 20th president, Dr. Timothy Killeen. Many issued press releases or support on social media, including Sen. Dick Durbin, Rep. Rodney Davis, and Rep. Bill Foster. Additional communications were put out by Sen. Mark Kirk and Rep. Dan Lipinski.
As an acclaimed researcher and former NSF administrator, Dr. Killeen will be a great champion in advocating for strong funding for federal research and closing the innovation deficit.
Obama Honors Urbana's Berenbaum with National Medal of Science
Dr. May Berenbaum, Professor and Department Head of Urbana's Department of Entomology, was bestowed with the National Medal of Science in a White House ceremony. Dr. Berenbaum was awarded this prestigious honor for "pioneering studies on chemical coevolution and the genetic basis of insect-plant interactions, and for enthusiastic commitment to public engagement that inspires others about the wonders of science."
Photo: Chip Somodevilla (GETTY)
Easter to Co-Chair APLU Task Force
UI President Robert Easter has been named to serve as co-chair of the newly-established Task Force on Antibiotic Resistance in Production Agriculture. Jointly created by APLU and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), the task force will work to educate the public about the appropriate use of antibiotics in agriculture and veterinary medicine as well as advise the Administration in its efforts to combat antibiotic resistance. In addition to representatives from APLU institutions and veterinary colleges, the task force consists of representatives from the production animal agriculture community and the pharmaceutical industry.
Jon Pyatt and Melissa Haas | OGR Federal Relations