Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up – January 16, 2018

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



Congressional leaders met with President Trump to discuss the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. During the meeting, President Trump said the leaders must pass a legislative solution and that he would sign into law whatever bill they sent him. He also stated that he would be open to comprehensive immigration reform after a legislative solution for the DACA program is enacted. Subsequently, press outlets reported on a tentative deal on DACA and related matters reached by a bipartisan group of Senators. The White House and some Members of Congress expressed opposition to this deal.


The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has postponed an executive session to consider nominations for U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Labor (DOL) positions.

Newly sworn in Senators Doug Jones (D-AL) and Tina Smith (D-MN) are taking the seats of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and former Senator Al Franken (D-MN) on the Senate HELP Committee.

HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) released a statement welcoming Senators Smith and Jones to the Committee.

Following reports that President Trump is considering appointing Andrew Puzder to his Administration, Ranking Member Murray released a statement opposing his appointment. Puzder is Trump’s former nominee for DOL Secretary.

The HELP Committee will hold a hearing on financial aid simplification and transparency in the context of reauthorizing the Higher Education Act on Thursday, January 18.


A Federal judge in California issued an injunction ordering the Trump Administration to “maintain the DACA program on a nationwide basis.” In his ruling, the judge asserted that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary has the authority to grant the temporary protection that forms the basis of the DACA program and that Dreamers must be allowed to renew their status in the program, but the government does not need to accept new applications.

The negotiated rulemaking committee on the borrower defense to repayment (BDR) regulations held their second set of meetings last week. As part of this set of meetings, ED issued regulatory proposals revising the BDR regulations issued by the Obama Administration.

ED awarded contracts to Windham Professionals and Performant Financial Corp. to help ED collect overdue student loans.

President Trump signed an executive order (EO) entitled “Streamlining and Expediting Requests to Locate Broadband Facilities in Rural America.” This EO aims to accelerate the deployment and adoption of affordable, reliable, modern high-speed broadband connectivity in rural America. Trump also published, in the Federal Register, a Memorandum for the Secretary of the Interior on the issue.

The Washington Post reported that the “Interior Department has adopted a new screening process for the discretionary grants it makes to outside groups, instructing staff to ensure those awards ‘promote the priorities’ of the Trump Administration.”

Acting assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education at ED Jason Botel sent a letter to States regarding the use of remaining School Improvement Grants (SIG) program funds and to update States on SIG reporting requirements.

ED provided Idaho with feedback on their State plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

ED approved Minnesota and West Virginia’s State plans under ESSA.


Penn Hill Group plans to provide clients with a summary of the following event next week:

January 18: Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Hearing: “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency”