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Washington Update

Government Funding Update
Lawmakers are working to avert a government shutdown with a stopgap funding bill that would keep the government funded beyond the September 30 end of the current fiscal year. This week, the House is expected to take up a continuing resolution that would keep the government open until November 21.

It is unclear if the Senate will agree to a House-passed CR, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said last Monday that he is open to a continuing resolution, while noting he hopes the Senate can pass as many FY2020 spending bills as possible before the September 30 deadline.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has been actively releasing and marking up appropriations bills in their respective subcommittees. The Defense and Energy and Water subcommittees passed their respective bills last week out of subcommittee. In the Defense bill, the Senate provides a $100 million, or 6.1 percent, increase in basic research over FY19 enacted levels, or $2.626 billion. In the Energy and Water bill, the Senate provides $7.220 billion for the Office of Science, which is $636 million more that FY19 enacted levels, and $428 for ARPA-E, which is $62 million over FY19 enacted levels. The Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee advanced their bill yesterday, but has yet to release bill language. The full Appropriations Committee is scheduled to take up the bill on Thursday.

Today, Senate subcommittee chairs also released bill and report language for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Program, and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. In the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education bill, the National Institutes of Health receives a $3 billion increase to $42.084 billion. The Senate LHHS-ED bill would also increase the maximum award for Pell Grants to $6,330 for award year 2020-21, a $135 increase. Other education accounts such as the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Federal Work Study, TRIO programs, and GEAR UP programs are all flat at FY19 enacted levels from the Senate subcommittee. It is important to note that these two bills have not passed out of subcommittees yet.

Of note in the State and Foreign Operations bill, the Senate recommends $55 million for the Feed the Future Innovation Labs and $35 million for U.S. and developing universities partnerships. These allocations reflect flat funding from FY19 enacted levels. APLU is working on additional analysis and will continue to update our appropriations priorities chart.

House Votes to Extend Title III (F) Mandatory Funding for HBCUs and MSIs
Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed legislation, H.R. 2486, the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act, introduced by Representatives Alma Adams (D-NC) and Mark Walker (R-NC). The legislation extends Department of Education Title III, Part F mandatory funding for HBCUs, HSIs, and other MSIs that will expire at the end of this month. Companion legislation, S. 1279, was introduced by Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Doug Jones (D-AL). Ahead of House consideration yesterday, APLU President Peter McPherson sent a letter to House leaders expressing support for the legislation and urging swift passage. In a statement following House passage, President McPherson urged the Senate to quickly approve the legislation.

As reported by Inside Higher Education today, disagreement has emerged in the Senate where Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) wants to include a version of the FUTURE Act in a package of Higher Education Act reauthorization related bills and Ranking Member Patty Murray is pushing for the Senate to pass stand-alone legislation as the House did.

OSTP Director Pens Letter to U.S. Research Community
The Director of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Dr. Kelvin K. Droegemeier, sent a letter to the U.S. research community. The letter describes the activities of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) and the newly established Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE). JCORE will be leading efforts to coordinate federal agency activities and policies regarding research security and other important areas of interest including: safe and inclusive research environments, research rigor and integrity, and coordinating administration requirements for research. Director Droegemier hopes academic leaders will share this letter broadly across their campuses.

White House Releases FY2021 R&D Priorities
The White House released its FY2021 Administration Research and Development (R&D) Budget Priorities late last week. The memo praises historic federal investment in science and technology but warns against “new and extraordinary threats,” stating that there is a need for the research community to strike a “balance between the openness of our research ecosystem and the protection of our ideas and research.”

The administration’s FY2021 priorities build on its FY2020 R&D priorities in the areas of security, artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences, computing, advanced manufacturing, space exploration, energy, and medicine. There are new initiatives in the FY2021 memo that focus on STEM literacy and diversity, and strategically engaging partnerships with underrepresented or underserved groups.

ED Releases Final BDR Rule
The Department of Education (ED) released its final Borrower Defense to Repayment (BDR) rule and a summary. BDR provides an opportunity for students who have allegedly been defrauded or been the victim of misrepresentation by an institution of higher education to petition ED for loan forgiveness. ED may hold the institution financially liable for the forgiveness.

The final regulation defines a “misrepresentation” as “a statement, act or omission by an eligible school to a borrower that is a) false, misleading, or deceptive, b) that was made with knowledge of its false, misleading, or deceptive nature or with a reckless disregard for the truth, and c) that directly and clearly relates to either 1) enrollment or continuing enrollment at the institution; or 2) the provision of educational services for which the loan was made.” The rule requires claims to be submitted individually rather than as groups. Compared with the BDR rule promulgated under the Obama administration, it is an overall narrowing of likelihood for successful claims by students and will lead to a projected federal budget savings over the 2020-2029 loan cohorts of $11.1 billion.

Among other provisions, the rule also changes as part of the “financial responsibility” portion, requirements of litigation disclosures. APLU and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) previously wrote to ED to express deep concern with their implementation of the last administration’s BDR rule relative to such disclosures, arguing the provision was never meant to be imposed on public colleges and universities given their exemption from “financial responsibility” requirements. The new rule seemingly narrows the litigation disclosure requirements. Per the summary from ED, “we also accordingly rescind the reporting requirements in the 2016 final regulations related to pending lawsuits. Instead, we require an institution to notify the Department no later than 10 days after it incurs a liability arising from a settlement, a final judgement arising from a judicial action, or a final determination arising from an administrative proceeding initiated by a Federal or State entity.”

ARPA-E Legislation Markup
APLU endorsed H.R. 4091, the ARPA-E Reauthorization Act of 2019. Introduced by House Science, Space and Technology (SS&T) Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and SS&T Energy Subcommittee Chairman Connor Lamb (D-PA), the bill would authorize $428 million to ARPA-E in FY2020 before rising to $1 billion in FY2024. The numbers are consistent with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s recommendations in its Rising Above the Gathering Storm report.

The bill was passed by the SS&T Energy Subcommittee on Wednesday, September 11. The bill has 25 Democratic cosponsors and four Republican cosponsors: Representatives Mast (FL), Riggleman (VA), Fortenberry (NE) and Katko (NY).

Senator Durbin Introduces Bill to Increase Ag Research Funding
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced the America Grows Act, which would increase research funding within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The bill would authorize a 5 percent annual increase over the next five years for USDA’s Agriculture Research Service, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, National Agriculture Statistics Service, and the Economic Research Service.

APLU joined over 80 organizations in endorsing the legislation. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL) plans to introduce a companion bill in the House.

OSTP Seeks Information on the Bioeconomy
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking input from interested parties, including those with capital investments, performing innovative research, or developing enabling platforms and applications in the field of biological sciences, on the U.S. Bioeconomy. The RFI notes comments will “inform notable gaps, vulnerabilities, and areas to promote and protect in the U.S. Bioeconomy that may benefit from federal government attention.” Comments are due by October 22, 2019.

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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