Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up – November 20, 2017

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


The House passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act by a vote of 227—205.

The House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing to discuss the policies and priorities of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Committee Republicans and Democrats released statements on their priorities.

26 Democratic Members of Congress sent a letter to U.S. Department of Education (ED) Secretary Betsy DeVos and Federal Student Aid Chief Operating Officer Dr. Wayne Johnson regarding reports that DeVos is considering providing partial relief for students who were defrauded by their institution of higher education.

The House passed the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2017 (H.R.4174) by a voice vote.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) released a statement following a private meeting at ED to discuss school discipline guidance issued by the Obama Administration.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee unanimously passed four bills related to science, technology, engineering, math and computer science (STEM) education: the STEM Research and Education Effectiveness and Transparency Act (H.R. 4375); the Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act (H.R. 4323); the Women in Aerospace Education Act (H.R. 4254); and the Building Blocks of STEM Act (H.R. 3397).


The Senate Finance Committee passed the Senate Republicans’ version of tax cut legislation by a vote of 14—12. The bill is expected to be considered on the Senate Floor the week after the Thanksgiving holiday. A number of Republican Members have raised concerns about the bill.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) released a statement stating the need for a budget deal between Congress and the Administration in order to complete fiscal year (FY) 2018 appropriations bills and indicated he would release chairman’s marks this week for the four remaining FY2018 appropriations bills the Committee has not yet marked up.

HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) sent a letter to ED Secretary DeVos urging her to make the borrower defense to repayment (BDR) rulemaking process, including the meetings, transparent and open to the public.

Ranking Member Murray released a statement on the nomination of Alex Azar to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released a statement supporting the nomination of Alex Azar to serve as HHS Secretary.


Members of the negotiated rulemaking committee on the BDR and financial responsibility regulations met for the first time last week.

The members of the negotiated rulemaking committee on the gainful employment regulations were announced.

President Trump nominated Alex Azar to be HHS Secretary. Azar is a former executive of Eli Lilly & Co., a global pharmaceutical company, and served as HHS Deputy Secretary under President George W. Bush.

A Federal appeals court in California has ruled that President Trump’s most recent travel ban can go into partial effect, allowing the government to temporarily keep travelers from six countries from entering the U.S. The appellate panel ruled that it would allow “foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the U.S.” This would include foreign students attending U.S. universities.

President Trump announced his intent to nominate Johnny Collett to be the Assistant Secretary of Education for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at ED. Collett is the Director of Special Education Outcomes at the Council of Chief State School Officers.

ED Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Jason Botel gave a speech during which he said: ED is trying to find a balance between encouraging innovation and assuring compliance with the Every Student Succeeds Act; in two weeks, ED will publish some initial feedback letters to several States’ plans; and he is encouraged that States are pushing the boundaries of the law.