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What Did I Miss in Washington? March 20-April 3, 2017

April 3, 2017

The steady stream of news emerging from the nation’s capital can be overwhelming. NACUBO highlights key actions and provides the status of top higher education business officer concerns.

Passed into Law

Blacklisting Rule Blocked. As part of an ongoing effort by the Trump administration to undo Obama-era regulations it deems overly burdensome or unnecessary, President Donald Trump signed H. J. Res 37, a Congressional Review Act measure, to permanently block the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order and its accompanying Labor Department rules. The regulation required contractors seeking to work with the federal government to report any labor law violations in the three previous years.

Congressional Agenda

Health Care Vote Canceled. On March 24, House Republican leaders cancelled a planned vote on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628) had insufficient support from Republican members.

Lawmakers Eye Tax Reform. Trump is now eager to turn to tax reform. Dismayed by opposition from the House Freedom Caucus on health care, administration officials may try to build a bipartisan coalition to drive a tax reform plan. It is unclear how receptive House Republicans will be to a White House tax plan, as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been promoting a framework introduced last year.

Administrative Actions

HHS Proposes Slashing Indirect Cost Payments. Explaining how the Trump administration could cut $5.8 billion from the National Institutes of Health for the FY18 budget, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price told lawmakers during a hearing last week that payments for overhead could be trimmed in an effort to get a “bigger bang for our buck.” The next budget moves are in the hands of Congress; some lawmakers expressed immediate resistance to the proposal to limit or restrict payments for indirect costs.

New Office of American Innovation. The White House announced last week that Trump senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will lead a new initiative to “bring together the best ideas from Government, the private sector, and other thought leaders” and “will focus on implementing policies and scaling proven private-sector models to spur job creation and innovation.”

Executive Order Rolls Back Obama Climate Change Policies. Last week, Trump issued an executive order directing the Environmental Protection Agency to take steps to roll back the Clean Power Plan, a 2015 rule requiring power plants to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Announcing the rollback, and other steps being taken, Trump stated, “With today’s executive action, I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations.” 

NACUBO Advocacy

Securing Student Information. NACUBO, together with EDUCAUSE, the Council on Governmental Relations, and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators wrote to the Office of Management and Budget to express concerns with a developing the Department of Education’s proposed audit objective related to the Safeguards Rule established pursuant to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. The associations are mindful that securing the privacy and confidentiality of student information is critical but are concerned that the proposed audit objective is overly broad in scope and lacking in specificity, and asked OMB to revise the approach.

Preserving Tax-Exempt Bonds. NACUBO again joined representatives from a wide array of organizations in signing a letter of support calling on lawmakers to protect the tax exemption for municipal bonds. “The municipal bond tax exemption has a long history of success, having been maintained through two world wars and the Great Depression, as well as the recent Great Recession, and it continues to finance the majority of our nation’s infrastructure needs for state and local governments of all sizes. We cannot afford to abandon the great success of this important financing instrument,” the 53 groups stated.


Liz Clark
Senior Director, Federal Affairs