Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap-Up: February 4

Here’s a quick look at the news from last week (January 28 –  February 1) in Washington.

The House Committee on Education & the Workforce will hold a full committee hearing on Tuesday, February 5 titled “Challenges and Opportunities Facing America’s Schools and Workplaces.” Witnesses include Utah Governor Gary Herbert, Jay Timmons, President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, and Laura Fornash, Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Senator Harkin (D-IA) announced that he will not seek reelection in 2014, which will leave open his position as Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and as Chairman of the Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

Senator Shelby (R-AL) announced that he plans to move to the Ranking Member slot on the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee. Sen. Moran (R-KS) will likely take over Shelby’s former position as Ranking Member of the Labor, HHS, and Education Subcommittee.

The Senate HELP Committee announced a full committee hearing on Thursday, February 7 titled “No Child Left Behind: Early Lessons from State Flexibility Waivers.” They have not announced witnesses yet, but we expect the list will include Education Secretary Arne Duncan, several State Chiefs, and others.

A bipartisan group of Senators led by Senators Rubio (R-FL), Hatch (R-UT), Coons (D-DE) and Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced a bill to ease limits on visas for skilled workers. This bill takes money from H1B visa fees and gives block grants to states for STEM activities and programs.

President Obama gave a speech on immigration, saying that the immigration reform framework outlined by Democrats and Republicans in the Senate was along the same lines of the principles he has proposed. He pledged not to send any legislation to the Hill unless Congress fails to act in a timely manner. He highlighted undocumented student issues during his speech.

Republicans, including Rep. Ryan (R-WI) are increasingly saying that the budget sequester, scheduled to go into effect on March 1, may happen. Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) said that budget sequester cuts should be replaced in short increments with alternative spending cuts and tax hikes.

Passback between the Agencies and the Office of Management and Budget for the President’s FY 2014 Budget Proposal happened last week.  This is typically a process that takes place in December of a given budget cycle.  The fact that the passback is happening now is another sign that the President’s FY 2014 budget submission to Congress is going to be significantly delayed.

The Congressional Budget Office is going to release their January baseline projections on Tuesday February 5th.  This is later in the cycle than is typical for this baseline.  Typically the March baseline issued by CBO is the one used to score a budget resolution, but the timing of the President’s budget could lead to the January baseline being used for any action on a budget resolution.