On May 21, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee passed a comprehensive immigration bill. Both Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Al Franken (D-MN) are members of the Judiciary Committee.
Over the past two weeks, the committee considered hundreds of amendments to the bipartisan Gang of Eight bill. Some amendments the higher education community and the U supported:
Student Loan Interest Rate
Chairman John Kline's (R-MN) Smarter Solutions for Students Act passed the House Education and Workforce Committee last week. The bill addresses the July 1 doubling of the student loan interest rate with a long-term solution that pegs the interest rate to the 10-year Treasury bond and caps the rate at 8.5% percent.
The House is expected to consider the bill this week.
The Senate will consider a bill that would freeze the existing rate of 3.4% for two years.
Both the House and Senate Agriculture committees passed their versions of farm bills last week. The full Senate will take up the bill this week, and the House Committee leadership hopes to bring its bill to the floor in June. Both bills reduce spending by billions of dollars over five years.
Sen. Klobuchar, an Ag Committee member, was successful in offering an amendment that would increase the authorizing levels from $100 million to $200 million for the newly created Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.
High Quality Research Act
The higher ed community continues to engage with key members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee about a draft legislative proposal that would impose new requirements in the awarding of grants by the National Science Foundation (NSF). What is driving such proposals is concern about "questionable grants" awarded by NSF, primarily in the social and behavioral sciences. The chairman of the committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), has expressed 1) concerns about the NSF merit review process, and 2) his interest in priority-setting in federal research funding.
On The Hill
Office of Technology Commercialization leaders Jay Shrankler and Eric Hockert met with Minnesota congressional staff to update them on OTC's efforts to create companies out of U discoveries.
Extension's Public Issues Leadership Workshop (PILD) team met with agriculture staffers in the Minnesota delegation to talk about their work throughout Minnesota.
Eric Kaler attended a Science Coalition reception honoring U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), a U law school alum, as a "Champion of Science." Kaler also met with Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN), the new representative for Minnesota's 8th District and a U alum.
Sens. Klobuchar and Franken introduced a resolution in the Senate honoring the University's women's hockey team NCAA championship. In addition, a letter signed by the entire Minnesota delegation was sent to President Obama, urging him to honor the team at the White House.
Kris Wright, director of student finance, met with House Education and Workforce Committee staff as part of the Direct Loan Coalition.
The U's Student Legislative Coalition participated in a Big Ten student visit to DC that included meetings with the Administration and on Capitol Hill. Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) arranged for the Minnesota team to attend the annual Hotdish Cook-off, which included all members of the Minnesota delegation.
A group of 4th-year pharmacy students and faculty visited with policy-makers in the health care field, as well as with staff for Sens. Klobuchar and Franken.
Kamil Urgbil (CMMR) and Sen. Klobuchar held a roundtable at CMMR to discuss President Obama's BRAIN Initiative. Roundtable participants included advocates for research in epilepsy, autism, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Sen. Klobuchar toured the lab and answered questions as part of the session. There was great coverage in the Star Tribune.
Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) visited the Community-University Health Clinic (CUHHC). He met with CUHHC leadership and toured the clinic.
Rep. Ellison led a discussion on student debt in a Science Teaching and Student Services classroom. Panel participants included U student leadership, MPIRG and Minnesota's Office of Higher Education.
Sen. Franken held a higher education roundtable at the University of Minnesota-Rochester campus to discuss career preparation and engaging with industry.
Tom Giaimo—a junior computer science major, wrestler and Air Force ROTC cadet—served as a judge for Sen. Franken's second annual poetry contest, "My Experience as a Military Child."
Sen. Franken spoke at the First Robotics conference and visited with participants afterward at Mariucci and Williams arenas.
University of Minnesota students participated in a roundtable at St. Paul College. Sen. Franken organized the event, and Gov. Dayton and Director Pogemiller participated. U students who spoke about their challenges were Taylor Williams (MSA President), Elizabeth Nelson (CEHD) and Zahra Forouzan Karimian (Pharmacy).
Many thanks to our Minnesota delegation members who were graduation speakers this spring: Sen. Franken at the Morris campus and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) at the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.
Two weeks ago, the US Senate and House successfully negotiated and passed a FY13 Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government through September—the balance of the federal fiscal year.
While nothing is simple in the world of federal budgeting, we can summarize that FY13 funding levels will be at the FY12 level minus the 5% sequestration cut.
A few examples of research agency funding that defy easy explanation:
During the Senate debate two amendments passed of importance to the University:
The House of Representative passed the FY14 budget resolution offered by Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) in mid March. The House budget resolution aims to bring the federal books into balance in 10 years by repealing President Obama's health care law, overhauling Medicare, and paring back government spending.
The Senate passed a budget resolution before adjourning for the Passover/Easter break. The resolution calls for $975 billion in increased tax revenues and for replacing the sequester with a mix of tax revenues, and cuts to defense and non-defense spending at about half the amount that will happen under the sequester. The higher education associations sent a letter in support of the Senate budget while raising concerns about reducing the charitable deduction in the tax code, which the Senate is considering.
We are still waiting on the final piece of the budget puzzle—President Obama's proposed FY14 budget. While traditionally released in early February, the president's budget proposal was delayed while Congress resolved the FY13 budget and sequestration. We anticipate the president's budget next week.
The budget sequestration went into effect on March 1—5%-7% cuts to most federal programs for a total of $85 billion dollars, which need to come out of the budget between March 1 and September 30.
Pamela Webb of the U's Sponsored Projects Administration has set-up a website to gather information from federal agencies on their plans to implement sequestration cuts across research accounts. Please check the site for updates and to share information.
In the news we continue to hear about the cancellation of White House tours and military fly-overs, and about the closure of entrances to Capitol Hills offices and national parks. A Washington Post chart tracks what the federal agencies are proposing.
In February, Chairman John Kline (R-MN) visited the Twin Cities campus. He met with University leaders to discuss higher education policy, financial aid, and costs that drive higher education. He also visited one of the U's Department of Defense-funded labs—the Academic Health Center's SimPORTAL.
On the Hill
Larry Zanko of the Natural Resources Research Institute attended the Transportation Research Board and met with Rep. Nolan, the new representative from the 8th District.
Duluth's dean of engineering, James Riehl, participated in a national conference of engineering deans and visited members of the Minnesota delegation.
The annual CARET meeting was held in late February, and leadership from the College of Food Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and from Extension met with the entire Minnesota Congressional delegation.
Dean Trevor Ames met with Members of the Minnesota delegation as a follow-up to the American VetMed Association annual conference.
Going, going…over the fiscal cliff
It looks like we are headed over the federal fiscal cliff—across-the-board cuts set in motion in August 2011 by the Budget Control Act.
Simply put, the budget cuts that go into effect at midnight tonight (March 1) are to all non-defense discretionary accounts, Medicare (cut falls on providers) and the Department of Defense. Medicaid, Social Security and veterans' benefits are exempt, as are Pell Grants. Cuts from sequestration will continue over a ten-year period.
Federal agencies have been slow to reveal their plans for the cuts. The U's Sponsored Projects Administration (SPA) is posting information from research agencies as it becomes available. Be sure to check SPA's site and contact them if you receive any clear directions regarding a grant or contract.
Brian Herman, the University of Minnesota's vice president for research, sent a note to faculty last week with recommendations for preparing for the cuts.
Several organizations have posted state-by-state impacts to research (Science Works for Us) and school-by-school impacts on student aid (National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrator).
On Thursday, February 28, Science Works for Us issued its last press release before the March 1 deadline: "Sequester will have a devastating impact on American's research enterprise."
We continue to work closely with our national associations and the Minnesota Congressional delegation to communicate the effects of these cuts to the University of Minnesota.
Important federal dates
March 1 Sequestration deadline
Mid-March Obama administration releases proposed FY14 budget
March 27 FY13 Continuing Resolution expires
May 19 Federal debt reaches limit, again
Articles of Interest
The coming R&D Crash
The Washington Post, 2/26/13
Bad medicine: cutting American health research will harm the world
The Economist, 3/2/13
Ringing in the New Year—Congressional style
On the first day of 2013, Congress met to pass the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, averting the impending ‘fiscal cliff’. However, in spite of the passage of the legislation, additional items will need to be addressed in the coming months.
Included in the legislation
What the legislation did not address
Numerous items were not included in the legislation, and will require attention by the 113th Congress.
Automatic spending cuts (8 percent for most federal spending, 2 percent for Medicare and Medicaid) that would have become effective January 3, 2013 have been postponed until March 27, 2013. Further, changes have been made to the sequestration fiscal target. The total cuts needed have been reduced by $24 billion (from $1.2 trillion to $1.176 trillion) because of new revenues (from Roth IRA rollovers) and cuts to budget caps set by the Budget Control Act in August 2011.
Congress will still need to act to raise (or not raise) the federal debt ceiling in the first quarter of 2013
How the votes were tallied
Of the 535 voting members of Congress, those voting in favor of passing the act included Minnesota Senators Klobuchar and Franken; as well as their colleagues in the House of Representatives, Representatives Ellison, Kline, McCollum, and Walz.
Representatives Bachmann, Cravaack, Paulsen, and Peterson voted against the legislation.
View a detailed summary of the act. For more information, visit the Washington Post ‘s Wonkbook article Everything you need to know the fiscal cliff deal and for an interesting look at the deal, the 10 weirdest parts of the ‘fiscal cliff’ bill.