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Washington Update: Budget Resolution; Food Security; and Secret Science Reform Act

The House and Senate have now both passed FY2016 budget resolutions that include many implications for public higher education. The two chambers will have a conference when they return from recess later in April. In addition, APLU endorsed the Global Food Security Act of 2015 and joined several associations and universities in expressing concerns with the Secret Science Reform Act.

Senate Approves FY2016 Budget Resolution

The House and Senate last week approved their respective FY2016 budget resolutions. The votes in both chambers were mostly along party lines with two Republicans in the Senate and 17 Republicans in the House joining the Democrats in opposition to the measures.

The House budget resolution was similar to the version passed out of the Budget Committee, H.Con.Res.27, however, it also included an increased limit on war spending and removed a requirement that any of it be offset. Alternative substitute budget resolutions from the Budget Democrats, Congressional Black Caucus, Republican Study Committee and others were offered as amendments, but failed to pass. The House budget plan includes a freeze on the maximum Pell grant award for the next 10 years and a tightening of the eligibility requirements for individuals who can receive Pell. Though the House budget would keep discretionary budget caps at the sequestration level for FY2016, it would decrease non-defense discretionary levels even further in FY2017-FY2025 (for total additional cuts of $759 billion over 10 years) and increase the defense caps over the same period (for total increases of $387 billion over 10 years).

The Senate held more than 40 roll call votes on amendments. A comprehensive list of those amendments is available here. Of note, the Senate approved an amendment introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) that called for providing relief from sequestration evenly split between defense and non-defense discretionary, paid for by changes to mandatory or discretionary spending programs and ending some tax loopholes.

The Senate budget, as adopted, proposes cuts to student aid, including elimination of mandatory funding for the Pell grant program, amounting to a $90 billion cut over 10 years from the Pell program and elimination of the in-school interest subsidy for undergraduate student loans. The budget keeps discretionary caps at the sequestration level for FY2016. However, it proposes an additional $236 billion in cuts to non-defense discretionary appropriations from FY2017-FY2025.

Budget resolutions are not binding; they are more message documents and an indication of future action Congress may take. As indicated above, both House and Senate budgets would make significant further cuts in the out years (FY2017-25) to domestic discretionary spending where most of the federal investments in higher education and research are funded.

The House and Senate will now conference their respective budget resolutions after both chambers return from recess in mid-April.

APLU Endorses Global Food Security Act of 2015, H.R. 1567

APLU joined a number of organizations in endorsing H.R. 1567, the Global Food Security Act of 2015, introduced by Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Betty McCollum (D-MN) among others. The legislation sets priorities for global food security programs and requires the administration to implement such a strategy. APLU, working with the CGA, was successful in having language related to the Feed the Future Innovation Labs and partnerships between U.S. universities and developing nation institutions added to the bill. The bill is similar to the one that passed the House at the end of last year but was not taken up by the Senate before the expiration of the Congress. Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) are working on companion legislation.

APLU Signs onto AAAS Letter Regarding Concerns with the Secret Science Reform Act

APLU joined several other associations and universities in signing onto a letter led by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) expressing concerns with the Secret Science Reform Act of 2015 (H.R.1030). This legislation would bar the EPA from “proposing, finalizing, or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible.” This legislation passed in the House of Representatives on March 18 on a mostly party line vote of 241 to 175.

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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