Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up: September 30

Here’s a quick look at the news from last week (September 23 – 27) in Washington. 

On Friday, the Senate passed the continuing resolution (CR) that was passed by the House, after stripping out language that would prohibit funding to be used for the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) and changing the CR’s expiration date from December 15 to November 15. It has been reported that the House will likely send the CR back to the Senate with additional changes. If Congress cannot reach a deal on a CR by September 30, a government shutdown will begin on October 1.

The Treasury Department announced last week that the federal government will reach the debt ceiling on October 17 of this year, and urged Congress to take immediate action to raise the debt limit. The House could consider a debt limit package as early as this week.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hold a higher education subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, October 1, titled “Keeping College Within Reach: Simplifying Federal Student Aid.”

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will hold an Executive Session on Wednesday, October 2. On the agenda are several bills including H.R. 2094, School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, and the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2013. The committee will also vote on several nominations for the Department of Education, including Michael Yudin to serve as Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and James Cole Jr. to serve as General Counsel.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will hold a full committee hearing on Wednesday, October 2 on the “America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science Act.”

On Friday, the Department of Education issued their contingency plan in the event of a government shutdown on October 1. Noteworthy aspects of the plan include:

  • The Department expects to furlough over 90% of its total staff during the first week of a shutdown.
  • Continued clarification that Pell Grant and student loan programs will continue to operate with the minimum number of Department staff necessary to continue operations.
  • If the shutdown extends beyond one week, a certain number of staff would have to be brought back to administer the Race to the Top, i3 and the Promise Neighborhood programs, as their funds must be obligated by December 31, 2013.
  • States would be able to access 2013 advance appropriated funds under Titles I and II of ESEA, IDEA and Career and Technical Education state grants that normally would be available on October 1 and a limited number of Department staff would be exempted from furloughs to ensure this happens.

The U.S. Department of Education held a conference call this past Wednesday for the Negotiated Rulemaking Committee to continue discussion on the gainful employment regulations. The next session of the committee is October 21-23.

The U.S. Department of Education announced that Jamienne S. Studley will serve as Deputy Under Secretary, handling higher education issues, including developing the college ratings system proposed by the President last month. Studley is the former president of Skidmore College and also chaired the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI).

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