Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up – July 31, 2017

A quick look back at the news from last week. Compiled by Penn Hill Group.



62 Members of Congress sent a bicameral letter to U.S. Department of Education (ED) Secretary Betsy DeVos urging her to take steps toward reducing excessive discipline in schools.

59 Members of Congress sent a letter to ED Secretary DeVos urging her to reverse ED’s decision to provide for a year’s delay on provisions that require gainful employment disclosure to individual students and in institutional promotional materials.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) released a statement in opposition to H.J. Res. 111, which would overturn the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule prohibiting forced arbitration clauses in many consumer contracts, including student loan contracts.

The House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and the Workforce held a hearing to explore earn-and-learn opportunities for workers through apprenticeship programs. Committee Republicans and Democrats released statements on their priorities.

The House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a hearing on the science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and computer science education fields and workforce.


The Senate Appropriations Committee released allocations for its 12 subcommittees for the drafting of fiscal year (FY) 2018 appropriations bills. The allocations provide $164.066 billion for the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee’s appropriations bill, which is a $3.04 billion increase compared to the FY2017 level. This increase is expected to offset smaller savings being generated from changes to mandatory spending provisions, resulting in largely the same level of funding for this Subcommittee for FY2018 as was agreed to for FY2017.

The Senate moved to debate the House-passed health care bill, the American Health Care Act, by a vote of 51-50, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie. During the debate, the Senate failed to pass an amendment to adopt the Senate GOP’s health care bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Better Care Reconciliation Act, by a vote of 43-57. The Senate also failed to pass a proposal that would have repealed key elements of the ACA, with a two-year delay and without providing a replacement, by a vote of 45-55. Lastly, the Senate did not adopt an amendment deemed a “skinny” alternative, by a vote of 49-51. The “skinny” alternative would have repealed the individual and employer mandates in the ACA, prohibited certain funds from going to Planned Parenthood and allowed additional State waivers.

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee passed the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 by voice vote, which expands the GI bill to offer a lifetime window for college tuition assistance. This bill is similar to legislation the House passed two weeks ago.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies approved the FY2018 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, which allocates $53.4 billion for the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation and other agencies. The FY2018 funding level is $3.2 billion below the FY2017 enacted level. The full Senate Appropriations Committee also approved the FY2018 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.


U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Alexander Acosta announced that he is seeking nominations for individuals to serve on the DOL’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion. The Task Force was created in response to President Trump’s executive order seeking to expand apprenticeships. Nominations are due to DOL by August 8.

Education Week reported that ED spokeswoman Elizabeth Hill announced that ED is changing its response process to State plans under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; instead of responding to State plans via letters, ED “will first have two-hour phone conversations with States and go over any issues that peer reviewers had.”

President Trump donated his second quarter salary, totaling $100,000, to ED to help fund a STEM-focused camp for students.


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