Government Relations

Government Relations Legislative Update

Government Relations Legislative Update

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

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Federal Update for January 25, 2011

The House began meeting on Monday, January 24; the Senate began meeting on Tuesday, January 25. President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address at approximately 8:35 p.m. (EST) this evening, January 25.

Last week, the House approved legislation to repeal last year’s health care overhaul (H.R. 2) and a House resolution (H. Res. 9) instructing specific House committees to develop alternative health care reform legislation. The repeal vote was largely along partisan lines, with three Democrats joining the Republican majority in a vote of 245 to 189. Because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said the Senate will not consider the House-passed bill, House Republican leaders plan to work to repeal or defund individual portions of the current law.

This week, the House is expected to vote shortly on a resolution calling on House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) to limit non-security discretionary spending for the rest of FY11 to FY08 levels “or less.” As noted by The Hill, Chairman Ryan already has the authority to stipulate the FY11 spending number in the House under a provision of the House rules package adopted earlier this month. (Such a reduction in non-security discretionary spending could result in significant reductions in aid to colleges and universities.)

News reports continue to indicate that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is focused on cuts of about $60 billion in the remaining portion of FY11, with additional cuts in FY12. Defense, homeland security, and veterans affairs would be exempt from the cuts. On the Senate side, which is controlled by the Democrats, it is calling for modest spending restraints, which puts them on a collision course with the House Republican majority.

The next Continuing Resolution (which expires at the end of March, 2011) is expected to include not only prospective cuts but also funding recissions, which take back already appropriated funds. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said on January 19 that he planned to “craft the largest series of spending cuts in the history of Congress.”

Complicating the situation for House leaders, the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) has proposed cutting non-security discretionary spending in FY11 back to FY08 levels, with further cuts in FY12 to FY06 levels. Funding would be held at the FY06 levels through 2021. While the sources of much of the proposed cut in spending are unspecified, the plan, which has received considerable press attention, does provide some detailed program cuts and eliminations. It would not only drastically reduce federal spending and agency staffing broadly, but also eliminate a number of agencies and programs of importance to higher education, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and applied energy programs at the Department of Energy, Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, “Ready to Learn,” among others. Time will tell whether this proposal is embraced by the House Republican Caucus.

It is being reported that if budgets for non-security agencies and programs were cut to their FY08 levels in FY11, cuts for some would have to be greater than the overall cut of 18 percent. The maximum Pell Grant could drop by 24 percent from current levels, according to the publication, Politico. For that reason, House appropriators might make adjustments rather than impose an across-the-board reduction.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to introduce patent reform legislation this week. The measure, which will be the first bill the panel considers, will be introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), incoming Committee Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Committee Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT). The provisions in the bill of particular interest to the university community are identical to those in last year’s version of the bill, which the university community strongly supported.

Congress provided over $2 billion (through the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program. It is anticipated that individual grant awards will range from $2.5 million to $5 million and consortia awards will range from $2.5 million to $20 million. This program could provide a strong link to the UW System's "More Graduates" initiative. Resources will be provided for eligible institutions of higher education to expand their capacity to provide quality education and training services to the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers program and other individuals, with the purpose of improving knowledge and skills that enable workers to obtain high-quality employment that will support their families. The program is designed to meet industry needs while accelerating individual learning and improving college retention and achievement rates to increase industry-recognized credential or degree completion rates for TAA for Workers program participants and other individuals. DOL is interested in projects that use online or technology-driven learning to achieve these objectives.

The process is underway to compile the UW System’s FY2012 Federal Priorities binder. You can access the FY2011 binder at:

(AAU and the UW System Office of Federal Relations contributed to this report.)