Government Relations

Government Relations Legislative Update

Government Relations Legislative Update

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

Friday, February 11, 2011

Federal Update for February 11, 2011

The House met today and approved a resolution (H. Res. 72) directing House committees to review regulations under their jurisdictions.  The Senate did not meet today.  The Senate will return to session on Monday, February 14, to resume consideration of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill (S. 223). The House next week is expected to consider an FY11 appropriations measure (see item below) and legislation to renew three provisions of the Patriot Act (H.R. 514).  

The House Republican leadership is expected to release (sometime today) a new version of its FY11 funding package that would cut $26 billion more from non-security discretionary programs than the budget outline they announced on February 3.  The new package is expected to propose cutting $100 billion from President Obama's FY11 budget proposal, rather than the $74 billion cut proposed earlier. House appropriators began developing the new package after conservative Republicans said they would oppose the measure unless it included reductions that they believed were sufficient to fulfill the pledge of $100 billion in cuts contained in last fall's "Pledge to America."  

Because Congress last year was unable to approve a full-year appropriations package for FY11, the federal government has been funded at largely FY10 levels through a continuing resolution (CR) that expires on March 4.  The House package announced February 3 proposed to cut $74 billion from the President's FY11 budget plan, or $35 billion from current funding.  Because the plan provided $8 billion above the FY10 level for security spending, non-security spending would actually have been cut by $43 billion, or 9.3 percent, from its FY10 level.  It is worth noting that the impact of the cuts would be more significant because they would be implemented over the less than seven remaining months of FY11.  

Senate Democratic leaders were quick to criticize the House proposals, without ruling out funding cuts.  National Journal Daily reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said, "Our goal and our charge aren't to cut billions of dollars just to say we did it.  We need to think about what we're cutting, and make sure those cuts aren't counterproductive.  We need to pay attention to the quality of these cuts, not just the quantity."  

Although the next version of House Republicans' FY11 budget plan is expected to include additional cuts in many programs, the earlier plan included a mix of funding levels for the major research agencies.

Following up the FY11 budget materials released on February 3 by the House Republican leadership, Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) on February 9 released a "partial" list of program cuts that included funding reductions for several research agencies.  However, the amounts of the cuts were based on the President's FY11 budget requests and not on current funding—which is at FY10 levels—so some of the cited agency budgets would actually be level-funded or even increased.  No specific cuts to education programs were included in the Chairman's preliminary list.

The research agencies affected include the following (NOTE: "current funding" and "FY10 funding" are the same here):  

  • The National Institutes of Health is listed with a cut of $1 billion from the President's FY11 request, but this would actually hold NIH at its current funding level of $31 billion, because the President proposed a $1 billion increase for FY11.
  • The National Science Foundation would be cut by $139 million from the President's FY11 request of $7.424 billion.  Because the President's FY11 request was $552 million above the FY10 level of $6.87 billion, the House figure would actually provide NSF an increase of $413 million above the current funding level of $6.87 billion.
  • The Department of Energy Office of Science would be cut by $1.1 billion from the President's FY11 request of $5.12 billion. This actually would be a significant reduction—$883 million from the current funding level of $4.90 billion.
  • The NASA budget would be cut by $379 million from the President's FY11 request of $19 billion. This would be a cut of $103 million from current funding of $18.7 billion. It is unclear if the proposed reduction would affect NASA-funded university research.
  • The National Endowment for the Humanities would be cut by $6 million below the President's budget.  However, because the President's FY11 budget already included a $6.2 million cut for NEH, the House FY11 reduction would reduce current funding of $168 million by $12.2 million.
  • Other research agencies and programs that would see cuts from the President's FY11 request include:  Nuclear Energy (-$169 million), Fossil Energy Research (-$31 million), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (-$336 million), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (-$186 million), and Agriculture Research (-$246 million).
The White House will release the President's FY12 budget plan on Monday, February 14.    

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today published in the Federal Register proposed regulations on student health plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  HHS issued the proposed regulations preliminarily on February 9, along with a press release and fact sheet.  The American Council on Education (ACE) has prepared a summary of the major provisions in the proposed regulations.  The deadline for submission of comments is Tuesday, April 12, 2011.
State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) earlier this week released the most updated results of a survey it periodically conducts on policies and philosophies that states use with respect to tuition, fees and student aid for their public colleges and universities.  A copy of the report and the questions used in the survey are available at the following website:
 (AAU, APLU and the UW System Office of Federal Relations contributed to this report.)