Federal Legislative Updates
News from Capitol Hill. . .
September 12, 2014
Vote on short-term funding bill pushed to next week
Due to the new debate about the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the House delayed expected action this week on a Continuing Resolution (CR) funding bill to keep the government running after September 30, when the current fiscal year ends. The House is now expected to act Tuesday or Wednesday, with the Senate to follow suit by the end of next week; both chambers may then adjourn until after the mid-term elections.
The CR will essentially continue funding at existing levels, and is likely to contain no controversial policy provisions and run until Dec 11 or 12. The final FY2015 funding bill will be deferred until the lame duck session or beyond. Looking ahead, any final bill should aim to prioritize core formula grant programs like Title I and IDEA that provide targeted help for the students most in need.
TAKE ACTION TODAY! Tell Congress to support an FY2015 Labor-HHS-Education funding bill that ensures opportunity and equity for all students
Best shot to increase E-Rate funding—we need you to weigh in!
NEA will file comments strongly advocating for a permanent funding increase for the E-Rate program in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s latest proposal—and urges you to do the same. Concerns previously voiced by educators played a key role in convincing the FCC to reconsider adjusting the funding “cap” for the E-Rate program, which provides discounts for broadband and other services to schools and public libraries. The cap has been in effect since 1998 even though demand is now more than double the available funds. Comments on the latest FCC proposal must be filed by Monday, September 15.
House to vote next week on program for low-income kids and families
After months of negotiations, the House will vote next week on reauthorizing the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program, which helps make child care affordable for low-income families. The Senate passed its version of reauthorization (S. 1086) last spring by a vote of 97-1. The negotiated bill is similar to the NEA-supported Senate bill and has bipartisan, bicameral support from leadership. NEA is reviewing the new language, but passage in the House and Senate now appears likely before Congress adjourns.
Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United fails to advance
On Thursday, the Senate failed to muster the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster and move forward with a final vote on an amendment to the U.S. Constitution (S. J. Res. 19) that would allow Congress to regulate and limit the amount of money raised for—and spent on—federal political campaigns. Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC four years ago, corporate money has flooded our political system, drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans. “The power to speak freely is a hollow freedom for the millions of Americans whose voice is drowned out by the booming echo of big money posing as free speech,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García following the vote.
More than three million people have signed petitions urging Congress to amend the Constitution to restore government by the people and undo the damage done by recent Supreme Court decisions.
Senate vote possible next week on lowering student loan rates
The vote on the NEA-supported Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act (S. 2432), introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), was also postponed this week. S. 2432 would amend the Higher Education Act to allow students who took out loans before July 1, 2013 to refinance and pay the same low rates as new borrowers. The cost for this refinancing of federal student loans would be covered by the implementation of the “Buffet Rule,” a minimum tax rate of 30 percent for individuals with incomes of $1 million or more.
NEA’s Degrees Not Debt campaign aims to push lawmakers to reduce student loan debt and make college affordable for all Americans, regardless of family income. The goal is educational equity—giving all students a fair shot at college so they can get the education they need to land a good job, own a home, and eventually send their own children to college. To help further these goals, take the Degrees Not Debt pledge, and urge Congress to act.
TAKE ACTION TODAY! Tell Congress Americans deserve degrees, not debt.
Cheers and Jeers
Reps. Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) for leading a sign-on letter urging Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to support the educational well-being of the children of our troops by having
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) for his leadership in introducing the IDEA Full Funding Act to ensure Congress finally meets its commitment to fund 40 percent of the national average per pupil expenditure, and to the original co-sponsors of the bill: Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Kay Hagan (D-NC).
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for attempting to advance the NEA-opposed H.R. 5272, which would block funding for continuing or expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. His effort was defeated on the Senate floor.