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Legislative Update: Competency Based Learning Highlighted at Recent Senate HELP Committee Hearing

November 1st, 2013

Capitol

Yesterday the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee held the second of twelve scheduled hearings on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA).  The hearing, titled “Attaining a Quality Degree: Innovations to Improve Student Success,” examined innovative practices in higher education which according to Chairman Harkin (D-IA), “are increasing student learning, engagement and degree completion.” Witnesses at the hearing spoke about a great variety of innovations and offered insight for how to improve higher education. However, one practice in particular— competency-based learning— emerged from the hearing as a clear favorite among those providing testimony.

Competency based education (CBE), according to the President and CEO of the Lumina Foundation, “is a student-centered, learning-outcome-based model. Where you get the education is secondary to what you know and are able to do.” This idea— to prioritize mastery of skills and knowledge over time spent in class— was a continual theme throughout the hearing. Dr. R. Scott Ralls, President of the North Carolina Community College System, testified that through this model their students, “are better able to attain meaningful industry certifications as well as traditional academic credentials, built on top of a foundational core of academic, workplace, and technical competencies.” These remarks and others have promising implications for Career Technical Education (CTE) and the broader college- and career-ready agenda as competency-based education can help remove barriers between CTE and core academic courses, and support more innovation in the classroom.

An archived webcast of the hearing, along with witness testimony, can be found here.

Secretary Duncan Unveils Timeline for a College Ratings System

Renewed energy and focus on innovative practices in higher education has largely been spurred by the Obama Administration’s call to make college more affordable. As we shared previously, college tuition and fees have increased by a staggering 538% since 1985 and the administration has made it a priority to combat these rising costs. Towards the end, the President proposed over the summer to link federal financial aid to school performance based on a national college ratings system. Factors such as average tuition, loan debt, graduation rates, and employment outcomes are all being considered to create a college or university’s rating. The administration has planned a series of hearings on college campuses across the country to gather input for the new system.

On Wednesday Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education Secretary, announced a proposed timeline for the creation and roll-out of this ratings system. A “technical symposium” is expected early next year where the rating methodology will be discussed. After this an initial version will be released sometime next spring which will be open for public comment.  Please check our blog for more updates as this process unfolds.

Budget Conference Committee Convenes

Also on Wednesday, the Budget Conference Committee convened for the first time, starting negotiations between both parties over the budget and other fiscal issues such as tax and entitlement reform. The conference committee— created as part of the agreement that ended the most recent government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling— is tasked with reconciling the House and Senate budget proposals which fund the federal government at $967 billion and $1.058 trillion respectively. More information on this committee can be found here. As we shared last week, this is an important opportunity for Congress to reverse or reduce the harmful cuts to the federal budget mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). These cuts, known as sequestration, have had a negative impact on education programs throughout the country and it is critical that the CTE community engage their members of Congress throughout these negotiations.

Although the process has only just begun, the committee must finalize a compromise by December 13th. This gives the appropriations committees in both chambers very little time to craft the necessary 12 appropriations bills needed to fund the federal government before the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on January 15th. In a rare joint letter, Senate Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and House Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), have urged the committee to come to an agreement no later than Thanksgiving. According to the letter an early agreement would allow for, “more thoughtful and responsible spending decisions, set the parameters for the budgetary savings that need to be reached in your Budget conference, and build momentum for a larger budget agreement that addresses the nation’s wide range of fiscal challenges.” The full letter can be found here.

Please check our blog for updates as this process continues to develop.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: Budget Conference Committee to Meet Next Week

October 25th, 2013

As we shared last week, the federal government was reopened with a Continuing Resolution (CR) and the debt limit was raised under legislation (H.R. 2775) passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama. Per this agreement, a budget conference committee was created to develop a longer term FY14 budget. The committee was recently announced and is composed of the entire Senate Budget Committee along with four House Republicans and three House Democrats. The bipartisan, bicameral group is led respectively by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) who have been charged with negotiating an agreement between the House and Senate budgets— a $90 billion difference that will need to be reconciled and likely include broader issues such as tax and entitlement reform in a final deal.Capitol

Sequestration also is looming in the background of these negotiations, with the FY14 sequester cuts from the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) set to go into effect by mid-January, the same time the current CR is set to expire. These additional sequester cuts would lower the aggregate spending cap for the federal budget to $967 billion and trigger further across-the-board spending cuts to the federal budget. Both sides have recently voiced interest in replacing, or at the very least mitigating, these cuts. However, Democrats favor increasing revenues to pay for additional spending beyond the $967 billion level, while Republicans are seeking reductions to entitlements and broad-based tax reform to offset those costs.

The conference committee set its first meeting for Wednesday October 30th to begin talks on these topics. As we have shared previously, sequestration has adversely effected and continues to negatively impact the CTE community. It is critical that NASDCTEc and its partners in the CTE community continue to engage their members of Congress, especially those on this conference committee, as they grapple with these important issues. Please check our blog for updates as this process continues to unfold.

New Addition to OVAE and Third Round of TAACCCT Grants Announced

With the federal government reopened, the Department of Education and its Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) are getting back to normal operations. Mark Mitsui, the recently appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges at OVAE, announced a new section for community colleges in the OVAE Connections newsletter. The section will, “provide useful information to community college leaders and their campus communities regarding relevant federal policy, grants and research.” Feedback and input for the new community college section can be sent directly to: [email protected]

The third round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grant Program just finished and approximately $474.5 million in grants are set to go out to community colleges and universities across the country. The four-year, $2 billion initiative, jointly administered by the Department of Labor and the Department of Education, funds the development and expansion of career training programs that are linked to the needs of business and industry. The grant program also invests in staff and educational resources and supports access to free digital learning materials. As Labor Secretary Thomas Perez noted, “These investments in demand-driven skills training bring together education, labor, business and community leaders to meet the real-world needs of the changing global marketplace.”

More information on TAACCCT can be found here and a list of grantees by state, along with project descriptions, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Congress Agrees to End Government Shutdown, Lift the Debt Ceiling

October 17th, 2013

Over the past several weeks NASDCTEc has been sharing updates regarding the most recent Congressional impasse over the budget and the need to increase the United States’ borrowing limit. Until yesterday, partisan gridlock had largely prevented Congress from accomplishing either of these important tasks. A Continuing Resolution (CR), which was needed to temporarily fund the government atCapitol current spending levels, failed to be negotiated by the October 1st deadline. A partial government shutdown ensued. Thousands of “non-essential” federal workers were furloughed, interrupting many important governmental functions and disrupting the wider economy.

Looming in the background of this stalemate was the fast-approaching need to raise the nation’s debt limit— the legislative restriction on how much the Treasury Department is allowed to borrow to pay for existing debts. Today marked that deadline for this critical limit.

Encouragingly, Congress came to a negotiated deal on both of these pressing issues late yesterday. The full text of the amendment can be found here along with a summary. The key aspects of the agreement are as follows:

  • CR funds the government until January 15th 2014
  • Raises the debt ceiling to February 7th 2014
  • Requires additional income verification for those receiving subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
  • Creates a budget conference committee between the House and the Senate to negotiate a larger budget deal by December 13th 2013

The Senate passed the agreement decisively 81-18 and the House passed the measure on a narrower margin of 285-144. President Obama signed the legislation into law late last night and federal government employees are set to return to work today. Senator Patty Murray (D-OR) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) will be the conference committee leaders where both sides hope to establish long-term spending plans. Sequestration, the mandated across-the-board spending cuts from the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), will likely be a significant issue for the conference committee.

Additional sequester cuts for FY14 are set to take effect on the same day as the expiration date for the current CR by lowering the aggregate spending cap for the federal budget to $967 billion. These spending levels will likely be at the core of these budget negotiations as both sides try to replace, or at the very least mitigate, the effects of sequestration. As we have shared previously, sequestration continues to impact the CTE community and other nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs more broadly. Tax and entitlement reform efforts are also expected to be discussed during these negotiations.

Please check our blog for more updates on these quickly developing issues.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: Federal Government Shuts Down Amid Partisan Gridlock

October 4th, 2013

Government Shuts Down with No Continuing Resolution

After ongoing debates over the past several weeks, Congress was unable to come to an agreement on a Continuing Resolution (CR) that would temporarily continue funding for federal agencies and programs. As a result, the federal government shut down for the first time in 17 years on Tuesday, October 1.Capitol

Prior to the shutdown, the House and Senate had been trading competing versions of a CR, with the most contentious issue being House Republican provisions to the bill that would defund or delay the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” A comprehensive timeline for these events can be found here.   The President and Senate Democrats have been adamant that they will only accept a “clean” CR which would fund the federal government through November 15th.

House Republicans have suggested funding only certain parts of the government, such as the National Parks Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs, as a way to lessen the impact of the federal government shutdown.

Recently, House Republicans have also included proposals to fund a few educational programs such as Head Start, Impact Aid, and the Bureau of Indian Education. However, all of these proposals would lock in sequester cuts through December 15. A White House spokesperson stated that, “These piecemeal efforts are not serious, and they are no way to run a government . . . and if these bills were to come to the President’s desk, he would veto them.” Meanwhile, the effects of the government shutdown continue with over 800,000 federal workers furloughed and many essential government services have halted.

Debt Limit Deadline by October 17

In addition to the federal government shutdown, the nation is expected to default on its obligations, or hit its debt limit, no later than October 17.  The debt limit is the legislative restriction on the amount of money the Treasury Department can borrow to pay for existing legal obligations such as social security payments, military salaries, and interest on the national debt.

The Treasury Department has made clear that failing to address the debt limit by the October deadline would have “catastrophic economic consequences.” Yesterday the Department issued a report titled “The Potential Macroeconomic Effect of Debt Limit Brinksmanship” outlining in greater detail the calamitous effects of Congress failing to pass legislation to increase the statutory debt limit. The report has put increased pressure on Congress to find a compromise to the current political impasse to avoid potentially damaging economic consequences.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has recently voiced interest in crafting a larger budget deal that addresses both the CR and the debt limit. It is not clear what such a deal would look like or if a compromise on items such as tax reform and further deficit reduction— priorities House Republicans have already insisted should be part of such a deal— would be a feasible solution for Senate Democrats and the Obama Administration.

Check NASDCTEc’s blog for frequent updates on these rapidly changing issues.

Congress Members Talk Education at Annual CEF Events

On Wednesday, the Committee for Education Funding (CEF) held its annual legislative conference and gala.

Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) emphasized a few guiding principles for budget negotiations. In particular, Senator Reed found it troubling that government revenues were being produced from student loans, something he felt should be stopped. Following his remarks, Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD) discussed Congress’ inability to pass a budget and denounced the sequestration provisions from the Budget Control Act of 2011 as “stupid”— a phrase he used often when describing how these automated cuts were adversely affecting important federal investments in education and workforce development. Interestingly, Representative Hoyer recommended that CEF be rebranded to the Committee for Education Investment to better reflect CEF’s commitment to education as an investment for the nation.

Representative Hoyer also highlighted the need for a national manufacturing strategy and comprehensive immigration reform to keep the United States globally competitive.

Ellen Nissenbaum of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities pointed out that the current level of non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending is the lowest it has been in 40 years. When asked how she would explain sequestration to someone succinctly she said, “Sequestration is an abdication of Congressional responsibility.” Like Representative Hoyer, Nissenbaum pointed out that sequestration does not prioritize pieces of the federal budget and instead Congress chose to arbitrarily cut spending without giving thought to long-term consequences.

At its gala event, CEF honored Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) for his dedication to educational issues and work over his long career in the Senate. Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) both spoke glowingly of Sen. Harkin and how he has helped shape public policy during his career.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: Congress Grapples With CR and the Debt Ceiling

September 27th, 2013

Continuing Resolution

Earlier this week, we shared that funding for federal fiscal year 2013 will end on September 30th and that Congress has not yet approved any of the 12 full-year appropriations bills for FY 2014. If Congress cannot come to an agreement on a Continuing Resolution (CR) – which would temporarily continue current funding levels for federal agencies and programs – by the close of September 30th, we may face a federal government shutdown on October 1st.Capitol

The House passed a CR last Friday which would fund the government until December 15th of this year. However, the House version (H.J. Res. 59) contained a provision that would defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or “Obamacare,” something Senate Democrats and the White House have emphatically stated they will not support. The House CR, strongly supported by House Republicans, has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

Today, the Senate voted 79-19 to end debate on the House’s spending bill. This means that another Senate vote will likely take place later today to amend the House bill by removing the ACA defunding provision. The “clean” Senate bill would fund the government through November 15th, a month less than the House version. The Senate is expected to finish this process later today and send the clean bill to the House for consideration.

With a September 30th midnight deadline looming, Republican leaders in the House will have limited time to consider their options. Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was asked if he and his party would pass the Senate’s version. His response— “I do not see that happening.”— has cast serious doubts as to whether Congress will be successful in passing a spending bill to avoid a federal government shutdown.

Debt Ceiling

As Congress continues to debate over the CR, they are also beginning to address the looming debt ceiling deadline. On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that the statutory debt limit would be reached by October 17th when the “Treasury [Department] would have only approximately $30 billion to meet our country’s commitments.

The debt limit, or debt ceiling, is a legislative restriction on the amount of money the Treasury Department is allowed to borrow to pay for existing legal obligations. Failure to raise the debt ceiling would force the federal government to default on some, if not all, of these existing legal obligations.

It is important to note that raising the debt ceiling simply pays for the debts the government has already incurred and does not create new ones. Failure to increase the debt limit would have, according to the Treasury Department, “catastrophic economic consequences.”

Yesterday, Republican leadership in the House attempted to begin the process of drafting legislation to raise the debt ceiling. This process broke down when members of the GOP caucus insisted that any increase in the debt limit be tied to a long and varied list of conservative priorities. Efforts were discontinued when House Republicans were unable to come to an agreement on a proposal.

Since then, Congressional activity regarding the debt ceiling has been limited. With the looming CR deadline early next week, it is unclear how Congress will balance both the need to raise the debt ceiling by October 17th and fund the federal government for the new fiscal year. Throwing even more uncertainty into the equation is President Obama’s refusal to negotiate with Republicans over the debt ceiling. The House is set to be in session through the weekend to work on these issues.

Check the NASDCTEc blog for the latest updates on Congressional activity related to these debates.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: House Holds Perkins Hearing, Passes CR

September 23rd, 2013

House Holds First Perkins Hearing

Last Friday the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education began the reauthorization process for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) by holding a hearing titled “Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs: A Discussion on Career and Technical Education and Training Programs.”Capitol

View the archived hearing here.

John Fischer, Vermont’s Deputy Commissioner of Education and NASDCTEc’s current President, was among the witnesses asked to testify. His written testimony can be found here. Fischer spoke about the importance and impact of CTE programs on communities across the country from a unique perspective—as both a national representative for State Career Technical Education (CTE) Directors and NASDCTEc, and also as a state representative of Vermont. NASDCTEc’s CTE vision and underlying principles organized the majority of Fischer’s oral and written testimony. Other witnesses at the hearing were:

  • Mr. Alvin Bargas, President of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Pelican Chapter of Baton Rouge, Louisiana (Testimony)
  • Dr. Sheila Harrity, Principal of Worcester Technical High School in Worcester, Massachusetts and 2014 MetLife/NASSP National High School Principal of the Year (Testimony)
  • Mr. Frank Britt, CEO of Penn Foster a regionally accredited career-focused online and hybrid postsecondary education institution (Testimony)

The hearing touched on many overarching issues surrounding CTE and the role Perkins has as a catalyst for improving and innovating the CTE system across the nation. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), co-chair of the Congressional CTE Caucus, summed up these issues saying, “The big picture we’re talking about today is competitiveness and having a qualified and trained workforce . . . CTE is not a field of dreams, but a field of jobs.”  Rep. Thompson went on to note that CTE programs are the driving force for ensuring the United States remains a leader in global competitiveness.

Over the course of the hearing, Fischer used NASDCTEc’s vision statement, Reflect, Transform, Lead: A New Vision for Career Technical Education, to organize his testimony. He spoke about the need for common data collection standards, definitions, and incentives; clear expectations for high quality CTE programs; and a more active role for states. He also emphasized strengthening collaboration between secondary CTE, postsecondary CTE, and businesses through consortia and private-sector engagement. Fischer highlighted Vermont’s use of its reserve fund as an innovation fund and explained how that model could be applied nationally.

Frank Britt of Penn Foster spoke of the advantages to online, hybrid, and blended learning programs. Through these programs, students have the opportunity to take additional classes, earning credits for courses that are not offered at their home school, and to provide paced instruction tailored to the individual needs of a student. The other witnesses, Sheila Harrity and Alvin Bargas, emphasized the important role of business and industry in the CTE system and the need to better link CTE programs to current and future labor market needs.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Chairman Rokita laid out the subcommittee’s plans going forward saying, “In the coming weeks, this committee will discuss a range of proposals to improve the Perkins Act. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to craft smart policies that will help put more Americans on the path to a prosperous future.”

NASDCTEc has met with the Democrat and Republican Committee staff as they begin their deliberations on Perkins and will continue to do so as the process unfolds. Now is the time to engage with your Congressional representatives and their staff! Tell them how CTE is working in your state or district. Learn more about NASDCTEc’s recommendations for Perkins reauthorization here.

House Passes Short-Term Continuing Resolution

Under current law, the federal government is funded only through September 30th with a new fiscal year beginning on October 1st. If Congress fails to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to temporarily fund the federal government, it will cease all non-essential functions until an appropriations bill is signed into law. A shutdown would be felt almost immediately and affect many core functions of the federal government.

Last Friday, the House narrowly passed a short-term CR that would fund the government until December 15, 2013, and maintain current sequester spending levels. However, the stopgap funding resolution or House Joint Resolution 59 (H.J. Res 59), also includes a provision to defund the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature healthcare law. The Senate is now poised to take up this spending bill and will most likely strip this provision out and send a “clean” version, without the defund provision,  back to the House for consideration.

After that it is not entirely clear how the process will unfold. The House will either need to pass the bill as is, or mark it up and send it back to the Senate for approval. Both President Obama and Senate Democrats have said that they will not approve a bill that includes the so-called ‘defund Obamacare’ provision. Because of this, both the House and the Senate are at an impasse and compromise will be needed to keep the government functioning after the end of the month.

We will continue to update members through our blog as more information becomes available.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

NASDCTEc Webinar Broadcast on September 26 Provides Legislative Update – Back to School Education: Policy and Funding

September 20th, 2013

Have you signed up for our next webinar providing a Legislative Update – Back to School Edition: Policy and Funding?

Join Kara Herbertson, NASDCTEc’s Research and Policy Manager, and Steve Voytek, NASDCTEc’s Government Relations Associate, as they walk you through the latest policy happenings in Washington.

Chalkboard with words "back to school"After years of anticipation, Congress has taken steps toward reauthorizing several pieces of legislation that impact CTE including the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, the Workforce Investment Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the Higher Education Act. In addition to updates on these key pieces of legislation, we will discuss sequestration and debates over the FY14 budget.

Are there specific questions you would like us to address? Email Kara at [email protected] and we will be sure to address your question during this webinar.

Time: September 26, 2013 at 3 p.m. Eastern

Register NOW

Ramona Schescke, Member Services Manager

Legislative Update: House Perkins Hearing This Friday

September 17th, 2013

CapitolThis Friday, the reauthorization process for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act will begin with a hearing called “Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs: A Discussion on Career and Technical Education and Training Programs.” The hearing will be held by the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education. Witnesses will include a State CTE Director and a CTE high school principal.

Hearing: Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs: A Discussion on Career and Technical Education and Training Programs
Time: Friday, September 20, 2013 at 9:00 am ET
Location: Rayburn Building, Room 2175

The hearing will be available on a live webcast. In case you are unable to attend, we will provide a detailed summary in Friday’s legislative update.

Kara Herbertson, Research and Policy Manager

Reminder to Register for Upcoming NASDCTEc Webinar Legislative Update Back to School Edition: Policy and Funding

August 29th, 2013

This is a reminder to sign up for our next webinar providing a Legislative Update – Back to School Edition: Policy and Funding

Join Kara Herbertson, NASDCTEc’s Research and Policy Manager, and Steve Voytek, NASDCTEc’s Government Relations Associate, as they walk you through the latest policy happenings in Washington.

Chalkboard with words "back to school"After years of anticipation, Congress has taken steps toward reauthorizing several pieces of legislation that impact CTE including the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, the Workforce Investment Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the Higher Education Act. In addition to updates on these key pieces of legislation, we will discuss sequestration and debates over the FY14 budget.

Are there specific questions you would like us to address? Email Kara at [email protected] and we will be sure to address your question during this webinar.

Time: September 26, 2013 at 3 p.m. Eastern

Register NOW

Ramona Schescke, Member Services Manager

Legislative Update: President’s Proposal for College Affordability

August 27th, 2013

President’s College Affordability Tour

CapitolIn recent years, the costs of higher education in the United States have risen more quickly than any other sector of our economy. According to the Department of Labor, college tuition and fees have increased by a staggering 538% since 1985. In an effort to combat these alarming trends, President Obama recently embarked on a two-day college affordability bus tour which concluded last week.

The President’s proposal would tie federal financial aid to school performance through a new college ratings system. Institutions would be ranked based on factors such as average tuition, loan debt, and graduation rates. Student outcomes after graduation have also been a point of emphasis for the proposed ratings system, although it is unclear how these indicators would be measured. As the President summed up, “Colleges that keep their tuition down and are providing high-quality education are the ones that are going to see their taxpayer funding go up.”

President Obama’s new proposal for higher education urges states to fund public universities and colleges based on similar measures. His new plan would also increase accountability for both students and colleges by linking continued federal financial aid to progress made towards a degree.

Changes to how higher education is paid for and the measures used for accountability have implications for Career Technical Education (CTE) programs particularly at the postsecondary level. The Administration’s emphasis on more affordable, high quality education and stronger outcomes will likely highlight the important role CTE programs have in preparing students to close the skills gap and fulfill the pressing needs of the American economy.

The President’s full speech can be found here and a summary of his plan can be found here. The new rankings system will not be fully available until 2015, but the Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center has released a College Scorecard similar to President Obama’s proposal.

Boehner to Introduce Short-Term Continuing Resolution

When regular appropriations acts are not enacted by the start of a new fiscal year, Congress must pass what is known as a continuing resolution (CR) to fund Federal agencies and programs. Current legislation funds the federal government only through September 30th with a new fiscal year beginning on the first of October. If Congress fails to pass a CR to fund the government in the short to near-term, the Federal government will cease all non-essential functions until an appropriations bill is signed into law. Failure to pass a CR before October 1st would result in what is known as a government shutdown.

Last week, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) confirmed plans to “move quickly on a short-term continuing resolution [CR] that keeps the government running and maintains current sequester spending levels.” The length of this CR has not yet been announced. However, a clearer outline should emerge when Congress comes back in session on September 9th.

Additionally, Congress is still grappling with the impending need to raise the debt ceiling. This past Monday, the Treasury Department announced that it expects the federal government to reach its statutory debt limit by mid-October. This is a legislative restriction on the amount of money the Treasury Department is allowed to borrow to pay for existing legal obligations such as Medicare, Social Security, military salaries, interest on the national debt, and other such payments. Failure to raise the debt ceiling would force the federal government to default on these legal obligations— an unprecedented move that would have “catastrophic economic consequences,” according the Treasury Department.

It is also important to note that the new fiscal year will coincide with the scheduled opening of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) mandated insurance exchanges. Certain elements in Congress are seeking to defund these exchanges, along with the rest of the ACA, by linking their support for raising the debt ceiling and a short-term CR to ACA’s funding. Congressional willingness to fund these exchanges, along with the rest of the healthcare law, may adversely impact the passage of a short-term CR and the need to raise the debt ceiling in October.

These two issues will likely consume the majority of Congressional time and energy during September and well into October. Compromise will be crucial to finding a solution to these fiscal and budgetary disagreements. In the coming weeks, negotiations between both parties will have significant implications for the functionality and day-to-day operations of the federal government.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate

 

 

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