In this edition, we recap the latest actions on the budget and health care reform, provide an update on Congressional attention on campus free speech, and feature some U of I representatives who were in D.C.
FY2018 Budget/Appropriations Update
Several agency directors and department secretaries were on the Hill this week to defend their proposed budgets, including National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins and Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
The House Republican Conference met on Wednesday to discuss how to move forward with the fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget and appropriations process. House Budget Committee Republicans have coalesced around a FY2018 budget resolution that they would like to mark up next week, even though there are still disagreements within the GOP conference. The spending blueprint includes a funding boost for defense alongside reductions to domestic programs.
Congressional Scrutiny on Campus Free Speech
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” There were seven witnesses, including students as well as representatives from academic organizations, law firms, and advocacy groups. In advance of the hearing, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member, as well as all of the committee members, which conveyed public universities’ strong commitment to the free exchange of ideas on campus.
The Senate Education Committee was supposed to hold a hearing this week on free speech on college campuses, but that was postponed. The Senate Finance Committee is also planning a hearing soon to examine a variety of higher education issues, including free speech.
Senate Republicans Moving on Health Care
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a long-anticipated draft of legislation to repeal and replace, in part, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bill would phase out the ACA's Medicaid expansion over three years beginning in 2021 and make deep cuts to the long-term Medicaid program, while allowing states to impose work requirements on certain beneficiaries. The bill would also allow states to opt out of some of the ACA's insurance requirements, including one requiring states to have an exchange, as well as rules for what benefits insurers must cover. The bill may be considered by the Senate as early as next week, although it is not yet clear whether it has sufficient support in the Republican caucus to pass.
Craig Gundersen, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics at Urbana's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, participated in a Farm Foundation forum in D.C. The forum focused on issues relating to developing federal policies uniting nutrition and agriculture.
Joey Mak, director of economic development & innovation, was in D.C. to represent the U of I System at the Association of Defense Communities' National Summit. The summit brings together leaders and stakeholders from across the country to discuss key issues facing defense communities and installations. For this summit, the Office of the Vice President for Economic Development and Innovation secured the participation of Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti on a panel focusing on strengthening regional defense sectors. During the panel, she shared updates on the Illinois Defense Industry Adjustment Program that the U of I System is leading.
- Senators Chris Coons, Tom Cotton, Dick Durbin, and Mazie Hirono introduced a bipartisan bill to protect U.S. patent holders and inventors. Click here to read Sen. Coons' press release.
- As part of a series of hearings on reauthorizing the Farm Bill, the full House Agriculture Committee held a hearing with university leaders on agricultural research. Rep. Rodney Davis mentioned the U of I System in his remarks, along with other Illinois ag research institutions, and noted how we are all at the forefront of ag research.
- U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a statement about the release of the first progress report by the department's Regulatory Reform Task Force.
OGR Federal Relations
Paul Weinberger and Melissa Haas