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Past Updates

 
 

9/18/2014

The Fiscal 2015 stopgap Continuing Resolution was passed by the House late on September 17, 2014 with 319 yeas to 108 nays, showing solid support from Members of both parties. The bill now moves to the Senate where it will be voted on during the afternoon of September 18, 2014. It appears the only question is how wide a margin of approval it will receive. The legislation contains the expanded authority President Obama sought to arm and train the Syrian rebels fighting the ISIL Islamic State. Agencies will be funded until December 11, 2014 at current levels, minus a .05 percent across the board cut to pay for additional funding for the Ebola fight and programs to handle the influx of unaccompanied immigrant children at the nation’s southern border. Throughout the House floor discussion, appropriations leaders reiterated their call to use the next two months to complete conference work on all of the unfinished 2015 appropriations bills for packaging into an “omnibus” vehicle as what occurred in the prior year. Both chambers are expected to leave Washington at the end of the week of September 14, 2014 until after the November 4, 2014 Congressional elections. Senate Majority Leader Reid announced yesterday that the Senate would return to session on November 12, 2014.

To read the text of the bill click here. To read a committee summary, click here.

 


9/12/2014

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEEE ON APPROPRIATIONS

WASHINGTON, D.C. - House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers today introduced a short term Continuing Resolution (CR) (H.J.Res.124) to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2014. 

The legislation continues funding for government programs and services at the current annual cap rate of $1.012 trillion until December 11, 2014. This rate of funding will remain in place for the length of the continuing resolution, or until Congress approves the annual Appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2015. The bill is "clean" and does not contain highly controversial provisions.

Chairman Rogers gave the following statement on the introduction of the CR:

"We have reached the point where a Continuing Resolution is necessary to keep the government functioning and avoid another shutdown. It is a critical piece of legislation, and my Committee has crafted the bill in a responsible, restrained way that should draw wide support in the House and Senate. This bill is free of controversial riders, maintains current levels, and does not seek to change existing federal policies.

"However, this is a temporary, imperfect measure that does not reflect the changing needs of the nation or new budget priorities. In order to adequately address the country's real and urgent budgetary requirements, it is imperative that Congress fulfill its Constitutional duty and enact actual, line-by-line Appropriations legislation for the next fiscal year.

"The House has made great strides in completing this vital work, approving 11 Appropriations bills in Committee and seven on the floor of the House. Unfortunately, the Senate has failed to approve a single one. While the Continuing Resolution introduced today will buy us time, Senate leadership must allow the completion of Appropriations legislation to fund the entire federal government - not continue on this path of piecemeal, lurching, short-term bills that punt on hard budget decisions and cultivate uncertainty in our government and our economy."

 

Continuing Resolution Summary:

Length and Level of Funding - The CR extends funding for operations for all federal agencies, programs and services until December 11, 2014. The bill provides funding at the current annual rate of $1.012 trillion.

General Items - Virtually all existing policy and funding provisions included in currently enacted fiscal year 2014 Appropriations legislation will carry forward in this CR. The bill does not include new controversial riders, or large changes in existing federal policy.

However, the CR does include some changes to existing law that are needed to prevent catastrophic, irreversible, or detrimental changes to government programs, to address current national or global crises, or to ensure good government. These provisions are funded within the total level of funding in the legislation. Some of these provisions include:

  • A provision to extend expiring Department of Defense activities, including counter-drug operations, support to the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq, and rewards for assistance in combatting terrorism.
  • A provision to continue a surge in funding for State Department programs to counter regional aggression toward Ukraine and other former Soviet Union countries.
  • Several provisions to ensure appropriate treatment of veterans and continued oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs, such as additional funds for disability claims processing, and funds for investigations into potential improper conduct including "waitlist" and "whistleblower" allegations.
  • A provision allowing funding flexibility for Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to maintain staffing levels, border security operations, detention space, and immigration enforcement activities.
  • Provisions to address the recent Ebola crisis, including additional funding to accelerate HHS research on Ebola therapies, and additional funding for the Centers for Disease Control's response to the growing outbreak in Africa.
  • A provision allowing additional funds to offset food price increases in the Commodity Supplemental Food Program to ensure that no current recipients are removed from the program.
  • A provision allowing funding flexibility to maintain weather satellite programs, ensuring the continuation of data for weather warnings and forecasts, including forecasts of severe weather events.
  • A provision allowing the continuation of current funding for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.
  • A provision extending the operating authority for the Export-Import Bank through June 30, 2015.
  • A provision extending the Internet Tax Freedom Act through the period of the CR ending on December 11, 2014.

For the full text of the legislation, please click: here

 


8/1/2014

On Wednesday, July 30th, a group of bipartisan senators held a press conference to announce the introduction of bill S. 2692, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act.  The bill aims to curb sexual assaults on college and university campuses.

The bill is led by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and has 9 cosponsors: Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC),  Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Dean Heller (R-NV), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mark Warner (D-VA). 

The Senators have been working together for months to examine federal, state, and local policies; collect feedback from stakeholders; and craft bipartisan legislation to better protect and empower students, and hold both perpetrators and institutions accountable.

To view bill S. 2692, click here.  

 


 7/9/2014

Appropriations update: Congress has returned following the July Fourth recess with four weeks of work until the August summer recess. The Senate is said to be planning two weeks of floor time for appropriations bills, but it’s unclear if agreements will be reached between parties to clear anything more than perhaps the Fiscal 2015 Military Construction-VA appropriations bill.  The FY 2015 Defense Appropriations bill will be marked up in Senate subcommittee on July 15th and the full Committee on July 17th. On Wednesday, the House will take up the FY 2015 Energy and Water spending bill which provides funding for major Energy Department research and development programs. The Interior-Environment bill will also be marked up in subcommittee that day. To read the bill which has just been released, click here.  Overall, the appropriations picture has been complicated by the Administration’s supplemental request for $3.7 billion in emergency funding to deal with the growing influx of unaccompanied minor children coming into the country from Central and South America, and to fight wildfires in the West.

Higher Education Act markup in House: Three bills to reauthorize parts of the Higher Education Act will be marked-up on Thursday at 10 a.m. by the House Education and the Workforce Committee.  The bills under consideration are:

  • HR 3136, the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act, introduced by Reps. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Susan Brooks (R-IN), and Jared Polis (D-CO), would foster competency-based education demonstration projects to provide students new opportunities to receive a high-quality education that fits their personal and financial needs. To learn more about the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act, click here.
  • HR 4983, the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act, introduced by Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), would help students and families make informed decisions about their higher education options. To learn more about the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act, click here.
  • HR 4984, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act, introduced by Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Richard Hudson (R-NC), promotes financial literacy through enhanced counseling for recipients of federal financial aid. To learn more about the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act, click here.

To learn more about the markup, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/markups.

 


6/24/2014

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security approved its fiscal year 2015 bill. The proposed Senate bill includes $15.8 million for cybersecurity education programs to train future professionals. Additionally, the fiscal year 2015 Financial Services – General Government bill was approved.

The fiscal year 2015 House Energy and Water appropriations report has been released. The funding for energy programs within the Department of Energy, which includes basic science research and the applied energy programs, is $10.3 billion, $112.9 million above fiscal year 2014.

The House Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year 2015 bill for the Department of State and Foreign Operations, which also carries funding for USAID. The bill totals $48.3 billion in both regular discretionary and the war-related Overseas Contingency Operations funding. This total is $708 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level.

It is anticipated the Senate HELP Committee will release a draft of the Higher Education Act reauthorization on June 25th. In the meantime, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) have released a white paper outlining key principles that will guide their drafting of the reauthorization of the bill. The white paper includes a number of policy proposals to reform federal postsecondary education law.

The four principles outlined in the white paper are:

  • Empowering students and families to make informed decisions,
  • simplifying and improving student aid,
  • promoting innovation, access, and completion, and
  • ensuring strong accountability and a limited federal role.

6/21/2014

The U.S. House approved the fiscal year 2015 Defense Appropriations bill on a bipartisan vote of 340-73. The legislation funds critical national security needs, military operations abroad, and health and quality-of-life programs for the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families. In total, the bill provides $491 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $4.1 billion above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $200 million above the President’s request.

 


 

6/20/2014

The Education Department announced new proposed regulations that will be published on June 20th relating to campus sexual assault. Comments will be taken from the public until July 21st and the final rule will be put in place November 1, 2014. To view the proposed regulations please click here.

 


 6/17/2014

In a positive development for the fiscal year 2015 appropriations process, the Senate will begin debate on June 17th on the first “minibus” of the year – a package of three fiscal year 2015 appropriations bills: Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS), Transportation-HUD, and Agriculture. The Democratic leadership there will allow relevant amendments to be offered and the process is expected to continue for the week.

 


 

6/12/2014

The Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies fiscal year 2015 appropriations bill was approved in the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee.  Next, the bill will go to U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. The highlights of the bill include: an increase to Pell grants, campus-based student aid, and National Institutes of Health and student loan servicing.

A provision to provide in-state tuition rates to veterans attending public universities under the GI Bill was included in compromise legislation to address VA medical waiting time issues passed in the Senate on June 13, 2014. The provision is drawn from a bill already passed in the House, the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act (HR 357) sponsored by Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL), and introduced in the Senate as S.257 by Florida Senator Bill Nelson. In administering GI Bill benefits, the legislation would direct the VA to disapprove courses of education provided by a public university that does not charge tuition and fees for veterans at the same rate that is charged for in-state residents, regardless of the veteran's state of residence. The VA would also have waiver authority for special circumstances, for instance, if a student veteran is called up for service while enrolled and attending school. The Senate bill will next move to a conference committee that is expected to resolve differences with the House quickly.

 


 

6/12/2014

On June 11th, the Senate failed to muster 60 votes to move forward on considering the student loan refinancing measure introduced last week by Sen. Warren, S.2432, the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act. The vote was 56 to 38 with three Republicans joining Democrats to support debating the bill. Most Republicans voted against the bill because of the proposed funding of S 2432, which would have raised taxes on high income individuals. The bill is effectively stalled but could be brought back to the Senate floor later this summer.

 


6/6/2014

Earlier this week, student loan refinancing legislation was introduced in US Senate. The bill was the centerpiece of a hearing in the Senate Budget Committee examining the ramifications of the nation’s growing student debt load.

The legislation is expected to come to the Senate floor for its initial vote, a motion to proceed, next Wednesday, June 11th.

S. 2432, the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, is led by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. The bill would allow student loan borrowers to refinance FFELP and Direct loans -- or any private student loan -- into the current federal program under the new, market-based system enacted last summer. The rate in effect now for undergraduates is approximately 3.86 percent and the Warren bill would let all previous borrowers refinance to that rate.

The Congressional Budget Office released an estimate that assumes about half of all borrowers with outstanding federal student loans would take advantage of the measure. The CBO said the $460 billion in federal loans and another $60 billion in private loans would be refinanced if the bill was enacted. According to CBO, “On net, CBO and JCT estimate that enacting the bill would increase deficits over the 2015-2019 period by about $19 billion but reduce deficits over the 2015-2024 period by about $22 billion.”

To cover the substantial cost of making this change, the bill proposes to close tax loopholes for millionaires by setting a 30 percent minimum effective tax rate. The bill sponsors cite a recent GAO report estimating that the federal government will make $66 billion on older student loans issued between 2007 and 2012 if nothing is done to allow refinancing to today’s lower rates.

To view bill S. 2432 click here. To view the bill fact sheet click here.

 


5/29/2014

The Senate HELP Committee held a hearing related to its preparation for reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.  The hearing focus was: Examining Access and Supports for Servicemembers and Veterans in Higher Education.

Additionally, in connection with student loan interest rates the Education Department announced Interest Rates for Direct Loans First Disbursed between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015.  Below is a chart to reflect the rates. 

 

Federal Direct Student Loans 2014-2015 Interest Rates
Effective for Loans First Disbursed on or after July 1, 2014 and 
prior to July 1, 2015

Loan Type

Borrower Type

Index

Add-On

Fixed Interest Rate

10-Year Treasury Note

Direct Subsidized Loans

Undergraduate Students

2.612%

2.05%

4.66%

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Undergraduate Students

2.612%

2.05%

4.66%

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Graduate/Professional Students

2.612%

3.60%

6.21%

Direct PLUS 
Loans

Parents of Dependent Undergraduate Students and Graduate/Professional Students

2.612%

4.60%

7.21%

 


5/20/2014

The Fiscal 2015 appropriations markup process resumes this week on both sides of the Capitol. On Tuesday, the House Agriculture Subcommittee will markup its bill at 10 am and the full Appropriations Committee will markup the Transportation-HUD bill on Wednesday at 10 am. The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee will mark up its FY15 bill on Tuesday at 3 pm. The Military Construction-VA Subcommittee will mark up at 11 am that day. To view the Senate webcasts, visit: http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/home?qt-front_page=3#qt-front_page .  The annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will be debated on the House floor next week.

 


4/10/2014

The House Appropriations Committee has approved its first two Fiscal 2015 bills – Military Construction-VA, and Legislative. At yesterday’s markup, Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said it was the earliest committee markup held since 1974 and it resulted from his intention to complete committee consideration of all 12 bills for FY 2015 before July 4. He also hopes to complete floor consideration of the bills before the August Congressional recess. The VA title carries $588.9 million for medical and prosthetic research, an increase of $3.2 million over current funding. The report accompanying the bill is attached. Note the following language is included urging the VA to improve collaborations with research universities and teaching hospitals:

Collaboration with research universities.—The Committee encourages the VA to strengthen its collaborations with research universities and teaching hospitals for the treatment and research of mental health disorders, such as PTSD and traumatic brain injury, to improve the psychological health of veterans and train mental health professionals so they will understand the unique needs of Veterans. The Committee repeats its request for a report on current VA-university partnerships on mental health research and training no later than 90 days after enactment of this Act.

 


3/27/2014

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are each continuing to work through their 60+ agency hearings that are needed as the Committees evaluate the Administration’s fiscal 2015 budget proposals. However, the end of the hearings push is in sight by the middle of next month and the first subcommittee markup is being planned in the Senate.
 
Senate Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said yesterday that she plans to set the first full committee markup for May 22 and that the Military Construction-VA bill would likely be the first one marked up. She also stated her intention to move bills to the Senate floor in early June in an attempt to complete as many as possible before the August recess. The House also is also planning to move several less controversial bills early this year and the two chambers are trying to plan movement of bills in more of less in sync with each other.  Senator Mikulski and House Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) have had regular meetings on the staging of bills in the process and the overall allocations to each.
 
The Appropriations Committees this year are working with an already pre-defined discretionary funding limit for 2015 of $1.014 trillion, divided between domestic and defense accounts. The amount was set in December’s Bipartisan Budget Act agreement that covered fiscal 2014 and 2015.
 
The presumption had been that with the spending limit being set, appropriations bills would flow through the process more easily this year. With Congressional elections scheduled for the fall, it is likely that at least some agencies will see their funding provided through a Continuing Resolution in September until at least the weeks following the November elections when Congress will most likely return for a “lame duck” session to wrap up unfinished business.