Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up – January 3, 2018

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


The House and Senate passed legislation to amend the tax code, sending the legislation to the President. The final bill is different from the bill the House-Senate conference committee agreed on, due to Senate Democrats pressing points of order under the “Byrd Rule.” The Senate’s changes, including barring withdrawals from “529 Plans” for homeschooling expenses and expanding the coverage of a new excise tax on private college endowment income to institutions with at least 500 students (striking the “tuition-paying” requirement), required the House to take a second vote on the measure.

The House and Senate passed legislation to extend the Continuing Resolution (CR) to January 19. In addition to extending the existing CR, which expires on December 22, the bill: extends the authority in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act until January 19; provides temporary funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and other public health programs through March 2018; and waives mandatory sequestration that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) would have instituted due to the passage of the tax bill.

The House passed a disaster relief package, separate from a CR, to provide $81 billion in Federal aid to assist in hurricane and wildfire recovery. Of the $81 billion, $2.9 billion is dedicated to hurricane education recovery to restart operations in schools in affected areas and provide assistance to serve displaced students. The funding bill will support Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and certain States impacted by wildfires.

The House Education and the Workforce Committee postponed a hearing on the policies and priorities of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), where ED Secretary Betsy DeVos was scheduled to testify. The Committee has not yet rescheduled the hearing.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) released a statement opposing ED’s new tiered relief system for resolving Borrower Defense to Repayment (BDR) claims.


Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) released a statement opposing ED’s likely forthcoming action to request comments on whether to delay, for two years, the effective date of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act disproportionality regulations promulgated during the Obama Administration.

Ranking Member Murray released a statement opposing ED’s new tiered relief system for resolving BDR claims.


The White House issued a National Security Strategy document, stating that the Administration will “consider restrictions on foreign STEM students from designated countries to ensure that intellectual property is not transferred to our competitors.”

ED announced that it has ruled on more than 21,000 BDR claims from students who attended Corinthian Colleges, Inc. ED is using a new “tiered relief” system, under which borrowers that ED determines were defrauded will have all or part of their loans forgiven based on how much ED believes a borrower to be earning, versus how much graduates of similar programs are making. Of note, 8,600 claims were denied; previously, only 2 claims had ever been denied.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly met with a group of bipartisan Senators to discuss the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, during which General Kelly laid out the Administration’s ideas for what should be included in any border security package, including discussing fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) publicly stated that he would schedule bipartisan DACA legislation that results from ongoing negotiations for consideration by the full Senate in January, should such legislation emerge.

ED provided 20 States with feedback on their State plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act and requested clarifying or additional information.

ED Secretary DeVos hosted a Rethink School Summit to highlight innovation in K-12 education.