Washington Insights & Highlights
May 17, 2019
Congressional Update

House Advances Spending Measures

This week, the House Appropriations Committee continued its work on Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 spending legislation, clearing several measures that provide funding for agencies and programs supporting higher education and research:

  • On Wednesday, May 15, the Appropriations Energy-Water Subcommittee marked up its FY 2020 bill, which provides $6.87 billion for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, an increase of $285 million above FY 2019 and $1.3 billion above the President’s budget request. It also rejects the Administration’s proposed elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E), funding it at $425 million, an increase of $59 million above FY 2019.
  • Also on May 15, the Appropriations Interior-Environment Subcommittee approved its spending measure, providing the Environmental Protection Agency with $9.52 billion—$672 million above the FY 2019 enacted level and $3.42 billion higher than the President’s budget request—with $727.63 million specifically towards the Office of Science and Technology. The bill would fund both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities at $167.5 million each—and increase of $12.5 million over FY 2019—rejecting the proposal in the President’s budget request to eliminate the agencies.
  • On Friday, May 17, the Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee reported out its FY 2020 funding bill. The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $8.64 billion, $561.14 million above FY 2019 and $1.54 billion above the President’s request. The Research and Related Activities and Education and Human Resources accounts would be funded at $7.1 billion and $950 million, respectively. The bill also provides $1.04 billion for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), $5.48 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and $7.16 billion for science programs run by NASA. All represent increases from FY 2019 levels and the Administration’s budget request.  

The measures will be considered by the full House Appropriations Committee in the coming weeks, along with the FY 2020 defense spending bill. More details will then be released with respect to funding for research programs under the Department of Defense. In addition, the full House Appropriations Committee reported out its FY 2020 State and Foreign Operations spending measure, which would provide $730 million for educational and cultural exchange programs, an increase of $29 million above FY 2019 and $420 million above the President’s budget request. CGS’s Appropriations Chart will continue to be updated as the appropriations process moves forward.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) indicated that the committee will begin marking up its FY 2020 spending bills during the summer, potentially as early as June. Congress still must negotiate a bipartisan agreement to raise the statutory budget caps to avoid across the board cuts to discretionary programs under sequestration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) discussed a potential deal at a meeting with the President at the White House this week.

Legislation Would Help Student Loan Borrowers Save for Retirement

On Monday, May 13, a bill introduced by a group of Democratic senators, including Ranking Member of the Finance Committee Ron Wyden (D-OR), would allow working individuals to save for their retirement while repaying student loans. The Retirement Parity for Student Loans Act would treat student loan payments as a salary reduction contribution, allowing employers to make matching contributions to a retirement plan while their employees make student loan repayments.

Bill to Ban Student and Research Visas for Chinese Military

A group of Republican senators, led by Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), introduced legislation that would prohibit individuals employed or sponsored by the Chinese military from traveling and studying in the U.S. on student or research visas. It would also require the federal government to create and maintain a list of scientific and engineering institutions affiliated with the Chinese army. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI).

House Bill Would Support International and Foreign Language Higher Ed

Last week, Representatives David Price (D-NC), Susan Davis (D-CA), and Andy Levin (D-MI) reintroduced the Advancing International and Foreign Language Education Act. The bill aims to expand foreign language and international education programs at U.S. institutions of higher education. It would also provide more support for such programs at minority-serving institutions, promote opportunities for studying world regions, international business, and foreign languages, as well as increase federal funding for Title VI.

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