U.S. Innovation and Competition Act Holds Spotlight on Senate Floor

For the last two weeks, the Senate has considered Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Todd Young’s (R-IN) technology and competitiveness bill. In a rare, robust amendment process, the formerly titled the Endless Frontier Act (S. 1260) has morphed into a mammoth proposal, including various research and development provisions, as well as defense spending, and initiatives to combat China’s growing economic and geopolitical influence. The legislation has strong bipartisan backing and sits on the verge of winning the necessary 60 votes. On May 28, after a lengthy amendment process, the Senate is expected to vote for final passage.

The legislation would invest in the U.S. research enterprise by funding Department of Energy research labs, the Department of Commerce, and a new directorate at the National Science Foundation. The investments would prioritize developing new technologies and increasing diversity in STEM fields, among other initiatives. Among the amendments still under consideration are a number of proposed changes to foreign gift reporting requirements for higher education institutions. Senators will vote on amendments that would adjust the reporting threshold; how and which gifts institutions document from foreign entities; as well as how the federal government monitors these donations. CGS applauds lawmakers’ efforts to increase federal investment in the research and development enterprise and will keep CGS members apprised of final provisions that impact graduate education and research.

NIH Officials Testify Before Congressional Budget Subcommittees

On May 25 and 26, officials from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) testified before the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, respectively, regarding the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget request. In the House, Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and ranking member Tom Cole (R-OK) voiced support for President Biden’s proposed increase for the agency, which would raise funding from $42.9 billion in FY21 to roughly $51 billion in FY22. In both hearings, lawmakers addressed the need to increase diversity in the research enterprise and protect U.S. research from foreign agents.


House appropriators praised the creation of ARPA-H, a proposed biomedical research initiative that would develop technology and advance NIH’s work across all twenty-seven agency centers. NIH Director Francis Collins brought attention to the UNITE Initiative, NIH’s most recent, large-scale effort to combat structural racism in the scientific community, to which CGS submitted comments in April 2021. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) emphasized the need for robust data on all NIH diversity efforts.


Lawmakers in both hearings noted the importance of funding to support scientists whose research was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. To the House subcommittee, Collins advised that future grants go to early career scientists and researchers with a focus on increasing diversity, saying the budget increase would allow the agency to fund more grants. To Senators, Collins added to these statements, saying NIH was able to support young scientists through extended grants and training periods as well as child care services, noting that the proposed increase in funding for FY22 would allow the agency to strengthen and expand assistance programs.

USCIS Nominee Names Visa Backlogs as Top Priority

On May 26, in a nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ur Jaddou identified reducing visa delays as a top priority, should she be confirmed to lead the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). President Biden nominated Jaddou to serve as the USCIS director in April 2021. She previously served as the USCIS chief counsel in the Obama administration. “My most immediate responsibilities, if confirmed, will be to return the agency to firm solvency, resolve dramatically increasing processing times and backlogs and utilize 21st century tools,” Jaddou said. The agency’s depleted revenue led to layoffs of more than half its employees in 2020. Additionally, slow visa processing has created application backlogs for permits to work and study in the U.S. as well as family- and employment-based green cards. The significant delay in visa processing had a deleterious impact on institutions’ ability to welcome international students and exchange visitors in the 2019-2020 academic year. Jaddou told lawmakers that the agency must process visa applications and other immigration benefits in a fair, efficient, and humane manner, focusing on reuniting families that have been separated during the immigration process.

Department of Education to Hold Public Hearings on Higher Education Regulations

On May 24, the Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education announced a series of virtual, public hearings regarding an array of higher education regulations. On June 21, 23, and 24, the agency will hold hearings on protections for students; loan repayment; targeted loan cancellation programs; and more, soliciting stakeholder feedback for future rulemaking sessions. The Department offers a full list of topics for discussion in the hearing notice and invites higher education organizations and stakeholders to comment on any regulatory issue that can improve outcomes for students, especially borrowers. Registration details and further information on the public hearings and negotiated rulemaking process are also available through the notice.


Following the public hearings, the Department will solicit nominations for non-federal negotiators who can serve on the negotiated rulemaking committees, which will convene in late summer 2021. Negotiators are nominated by the public and should be persons or representatives of groups likely to be affected by the regulations, including students, institutions of higher education, lenders, loan servicers, collection agencies, state agencies, and others. A frequently asked questions document on the negotiated rulemaking process is available here.

HHS Incorporates Title IX Protections on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

On May 10, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a notification of interpretation and enforcement that codifies the Supreme Court’s recent interpretation of Title IX, which expands protections on the basis of sex. In June 2020, the Supreme Court found that Title IX Section 1557’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex includes sexual orientation and gender identity. In March 2021, the Department of Justice issued a memorandum directed to all federal agencies that upholds the Court’s decision (See a previous edition of Insights & Highlights). The May ordinance informs the public that, consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision, HHS’s Office for Civil Rights will use the updated interpretation to guide how the agency determines future complaints and investigations.