Government Relations

Government Relations Legislative Update

Government Relations Legislative Update

Updates on state and federal issues relating to the UW System.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Federal Update for July 6

Both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate will return to session following the July 4 recess (the Senate on July 12; the House on July 13). When Congress returns, Senate Democrats are expected to try again to approve an extension of unemployment benefits, which fell one vote short of the 60 needed for passage on June 30. The House approved the benefits extension bill on July 1. It remains unclear when and how congressional Democrats will deal with expired tax benefits, including the R&D tax credit, the IRA charitable rollover, and the above-the-line deduction for education expenses, which had been packaged with the unemployment benefits in earlier versions of the bill.

The House approved an amendment adding more than $21 billion in domestic spending to the $59 billion Senate-passed FY11 wartime supplemental appropriations bill, sending the package back to the Senate for further consideration. The White House has threatened to veto the House amendment, which would rescind $800 million from certain Education Department grant programs (not higher education programs) to help finance $10 billion for education jobs and $4.95 billion to address some of the Pell Grant shortfall. The education jobs funding includes a maintenance of effort requirement covering both K-12 and higher education. The maintenance of effort provision is described in the bill summary as aiming to "ensure that States use these funds only for preservation of jobs serving elementary and secondary education, and not to supplant State spending on education."

The Senate version of the supplemental funding bill, approved in late May, does not include funding for education jobs or the Pell Grant program.

The atmosphere in Congress has changed dramatically since earlier this year when members of both parties were more willing to take actions that might add to the deficit. Consequently, the broad "extenders" package remains stalled and funding for the war and domestic funding has been sidetracked.


The U.S. House moved half of its 12 appropriations bills through subcommittee before the recess, with five of the markups being held last week. House markups of spending bills will continue when lawmakers return, and the Senate is expected to begin markups of its spending bills, markups that were posted due to the death of Senator Byrd. Given concern about federal spending, it is anticipated that few spending bills will see House or Senate floor time this year. The expectation is that most work will be wrapped up in a post-election lame-duck session in the form of an omnibus package.


At markup of its FY11 funding bill, the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee voted to provide the National Science Foundation and NASA with the President's full budget requests. Significant funding changes were made, however, within the agencies. NSf would receive $7.4 billion, an increase over the FY10 enacted level of $498 million, or 7.2 percent. Funding for Research and Related Activities was reduced; funding for Education and Human Resources was increased from $892 million to $958 million.

NASA would be funded at the Administration's FY11 request of $19 billion; Science would be funded slightly more than FY10 funding; Aeronautics would receive $126 million less from the FY10 enacted level.


The Department of Energy has announced that it will begin accepting proposals for the second year of its Science Early Career Research Program, which supports research of outstanding scientists early in their careers. The Department will provide up to $15 million to support at least 50 early-career researchers for five years at U.S. academic institutions and DOE national laboratories. Pre-applications are mandatory and are due on August 13, 2010; proposals are due on November 9, 2010.


A group of 137 university presidents and chancellors, including UW System President Reilly, has sent a letter to President Obama expressing strong support for "expanded partnerships between U.S. and Indonesian universities on research and other matters of interest and importance to both countries."


The UW System Office of Federal Relations hosted a visit by Jessah Foulk, Senator Herb Kohl's Legislative Assistant for Higher Education, and Darcy Luoma, Senator Kohl's Madison Office Director on Tuesday, July 6. Discussed was Senator Kohl's bill, "The Fast Track To College Act," which would authorize the Secretary of Education to create a competitive grant program to provide schools serving low-income students with funding to establish and support dual enrollment programs and early college high schools.

(Contributing to this report:  CQ, AAU and the UWSA Office of Federal Relations.)