It's been a climactic final week of session, and we have not quite reached the finish line. The Senate still must act to pass a funding bill that will keep the government open by Sunday.
Massive Spending Bill Poised for Passage
Despite lingering frustration with the executive order on immigration—and faced with an expiring continuing resolution (CR)—congressional leaders released a 9-month, $1.1 trillion Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 appropriations package to fund federal agencies through September 2015.
Contentious Wall Street policy riders threatened to derail the measure, causing both President Obama and Vice President Biden to lobby Democrats to support the bill, which the House approved late Thursday with an extremely close, but bipartisan vote of 219—206. All but six members from the Illinois delegation—all Democrats—supported the bill.
The House also passed a two-day continuing resolution to give the Senate enough breathing room to take up the package. But it has only until midnight Saturday to approve the bill. The measure is expected to pass.
The spending package contains changes to funding important to research universities.
Many research agencies receive modest increases under the funding package, including some of the University of Illinois' top funding agencies:
- National Science Foundation (NSF): NSF was funded at $7.34 billion, a 2.4 percent increase from last year's level, and higher than the President's request.
- National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH received a modest increase of $150 million, bringing the FY15 funding level to $30.08 billion. It received additional funding for Ebola research.
- Department of Defense (DOD) basic research programs were a big winner, with a 5.2 percent increase from last year's levels.
Within USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) received a small increase. The Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Science received flat funding at $5 billion.
For a capsule of funding at other agencies, see the analyses by AAU and AAAS.
Higher Ed Provisions
Funding for higher ed and student aid programs was a bit of a mixed bag. Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) and GEAR UP were level-funded. Here are some of the notable increases:
- Federal Work-Study (FWS): FWS received a $15 million increase, bringing the total to $989.73 million.
- TRIO: TRIO received a $1.5 million increase, bringing the total to $839.75 million.
- Pell Grants: The Pell Grant program was funded at $22.475 billion. Due to an automatic mandatory increase in funding, the maximum Pell Grant award will increase by $100 to $5,830 for the next academic year.
One notable decrease: funding for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education’s (FIPSE) First in the World (FITW) program was reduced by $15 million.
The Week's Big Winner: Advanced Manufacturing
The Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act, a bill for which the University of Illinois and our community have enthusiastically advocated, was included in the year-end funding package. It authorizes new advanced manufacturing institutes, and tees them up for congressional funding in the next year.
This is welcome news for both the university and UI LABS. Not only do more institutes mean more opportunities to compete and collaborate for our campuses, but it also positions Chicago’s Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) to serve as the digital “nerve center” that connects the yet-to-be added institutes in the national network.
The White House also announced the competition for two additional manufacturing innovation institutes: a DOE-led hub on clean energy manufacturing related to sensors, controls, platforms, and modeling and a DOD-led hub on flexible hybrid electronics.
VPR Schook Touts Economic Development with Federal Policymakers
UI Vice President for Research Larry Schook updated Washington thought leaders and policymakers on innovation and economic development activities across UI. He met with representatives from national organizations, including the director of the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable (GUIRR) at the National Academies as well as leadership at the Wilson Center.
He updated Illinois delegation members on UI economic development priorities, including meetings with Reps. Aaron Schock, Randy Hultgren, Cheri Bustos and Mike Quigley. With patent reform expected to be resurrected early next Congress, he spoke about the importance of protecting university intellectual property and the unique role that universities play in transferring discoveries to market, which foster economic growth.
Jon Pyatt and Melissa Haas | OGR Federal Relations