Another short but busy week lies ahead on Capitol Hill before Republicans head to Philadelphia for their annual joint retreat to strategize on their agenda for this session.
Cabinet Confirmations Update
In the Senate, the past couple of weeks have been consumed by confirmation hearings for President Trump's Cabinet nominees. As expected, several of these hearings prompted challenging questions about policy positions and expertise.
All of the Cabinet nominees have been revealed at this point, after President Trump announced last week that he would be naming former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to serve as Secretary of Agriculture. Below is a chart which lists the nominees and the status of their confirmation.
Committees are expected to vote on the remaining nominees over the next few weeks, and those recommendations will then be reported to the full Senate for floor votes. One committee vote has already been postponed—for Betsy DeVos, who has been nominated for Education Secretary.
During a press conference last week, Sean Spicer, the new White House press secretary, indicated that then President-elect Donald Trump has asked roughly 50 senior Obama administration officials to remain in their roles in order to "ensure the continuity of government." Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is among officials being held over for an indefinite time period. In December, a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives sent a letter to then President-elect Trump urging him to retain Collins as NIH director. Also among the Obama administration officials temporarily staying on is Defense Deputy Secretary Robert Work, who is an Urbana-Champaign alum.
There is a lot of uncertainty right now surrounding the future of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program. Many stories were reported late last week that President Trump was planning to take action to cancel DACA as early as his first day in office. At this time, no announcements have been made, but OGR is closely monitoring the issue.
There is a bipartisan bill which has been introduced in both chambers called the BRIDGE (Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy) Act, which would extend DACA provisions for three years. Sen. Dick Durbin is the lead Senate Democrat sponsor and Rep. Luis Gutierrez is the lead House Democrat sponsor. Our higher education associations recently sent a joint letter expressing support for passage of the legislation.
Sen. Dick Durbin recently visited UIC to speak at an event organized by the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System (UI Health) with officials from the Cuban Ministry of Health. The visit is part of a two-year initiative, funded by a feasibility grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to the University of Illinois Cancer Center. The project aim is to foster a mutual exchange of best practices on improving health—particularly maternal and child health—in under-resourced communities through community-based care.
Randy Ewoldt, an Urbana-Champaign MechSE assistant professor, was recently named as one of the 102 recipients in the latest round of Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). This highly esteemed award is bestowed upon exceptional young scientists and engineers establishing their independent research careers. The National Science Foundation nominated Dr. Ewoldt for the award.
Melissa Haas | Acting Director | OGR Federal Relations