Attention and debate last week centered around two primary topics — President Trump's recent executive order on immigration and Cabinet confirmations. Discussions surrounding both of these topics will spill into this week.
Cabinet Confirmations Update
It has been a rocky road for President Trump's nominee for Education Secretary. His pick, Besty DeVos, had a contentious confirmation hearing within the Senate Education Committee several weeks ago. At least two Republican senators have revealed that they will vote against DeVos — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Although the vote was scheduled to take place last week, it has been postponed until early this week. It appears that Vice President Mike Pence will need to come in to cast the tie-breaking vote for DeVos. The situation is unprecedented — no Education Secretary nominee has ever faced a vote this close.
In a largely uncontroversial vote, Elaine Chao was confirmed by the full Senate (93-6) on Jan. 31 to be the next Secretary of Transportation. Chao previously served as Labor Secretary in the George W. Bush administration and as Deputy Secretary of Transportation in the George H.W. Bush administration. She is also the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Click here to read the statement by the House Transportation Committee Chairman and here to read the statement by the Senate Transportation Committee Chairman.
Below is an updated chart reflecting the latest status of President Trump's Cabinet nominees.
On January 27, President Trump signed an executive order (EO) which restricted immigrant and non-immigrant entry to the U.S. from Iran, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya for 90 days from the date the order was issued. Below is a recap of the higher education community's responses to the EO:
- University of Illinois System leaders put out a mass mail communication to students, faculty and staff on January 30. OGR distributed this communication to the entire IL Congressional delegation.
- Our higher education associations released individual statements. See AAU’s statement, APLU’s statement, and AAAS’ statement.
- Our associations created landing pages for statements/letters from their respective members. See AAU's landing page and APLU’s landing page.
- On Friday, an American Council on Education (ACE)-led institutional sign on letter was sent to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly. The University of Illinois System, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Illinois at Chicago and University of Illinois at Springfield were among the 600 institutions that signed on to the letter, which expresses concerns about the EO and notes that "Our nation can only maintain its global scientific and economic leadership position if it encourages those talented people to come here to study and work."
- ACE led a separate letter signed by 51 higher education associations that was sent to DHS Secretary Kelly on January 31. APLU and AAU are signatories.
- The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) led a multi-society sign-on letter to DHS Secretary Kelly that was sent on Jan. 31.
Last Friday, a federal judge issued a ruling to temporarily block the enforcement of the EO nationwide. In accordance with that ruling, DHS announced that they have "suspended any and all actions" implementing the EO. A Ninth Circuit panel is expected to make a ruling as soon as this evening on the U.S. Department of Justice's request to place an emergency stay on the judge's order to allow the government to resume enforcing the ban. OGR is closely monitoring the situation.
The House Science Committee announced subcommittee assignments for the Majority. Rep. Darin LaHood will be chairing the oversight subcommittee. Rep. Randy Hultgren will continue serving on the research and technology subcommittee and both Rep. Hultgren and Rep. LaHood will serve on the energy subcommittee.
It was announced that Rep. Mike Quigley will be chairing the financial services and general government subcommittee within the House Appropriations Committee. He will also continue serving as a member of the transportation/housing/urban development subcommittee — a key post given anticipated action on a federal infrastructure package.
Two chemistry researchers from UIC — Justin Lorieau and Justin Mohr — have been named recipients of the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award, a Foundation-wide activity that supports junior faculty with five-year grants. Click here to read the UIC news release.
Melissa Haas | Acting Director | OGR Federal Relations