Washington Update: In-State Tuition for Veterans; Dept. of Energy Research; and Defense Appropriations

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June 25, 2014—The Senate passed a bill that would include an in-state tuition for veterans provision. On the appropriations front, work to move appropriations bills has slowed down in the Senate. In the House, a Science Subcommittee tried to markup the Department of Energy Research and Development Act and the Appropriations Committee approved the FY15 Defense spending bill.

Senate Passes VA Medical Bill With In-State Tuition Provision

The House and Senate are now in conference negotiations over H.R. 3220, the Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act, primarily covering Veterans’ Affairs medical issues. The Senate version of H.R. 3230 includes a section affecting tuition for veterans. The bill would require institutions to offer in-state tuition for veterans and certain eligible spouses/dependents for a period of three years post-discharge in order for that institution to remain eligible for Post-9/11 GI and Montgomery GI bill benefits. The House has previously passed legislation, H.R. 357, GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act, that included a similar in-state tuition provision covering certain veterans.

Appropriations Package Pulled from the Senate Floor

 An FY15 appropriations package of three funding bills—Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS); Transportation, Housing and Urban Development; and Agriculture – was pulled from the Senate floor after Senate leaders failed to reach an agreement on an amendment process. It is currently unclear if and when the full Senate will resume consideration of those or other appropriations bills.

Should the Senate resume debate of the CJS bill, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) plans to offer an amendment targeting political science research at the National Science Foundation (NSF). This amendment, which Coburn offered and passed during consideration of the FY13 appropriations, would allow funding of political science research at the NSF only if that research promotes “national security or the economic interests of the United States.”

House Science, Energy Subcommittee Holds Markup on DoE Research and Development Act

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Subcommittee on Energy held a short, contentious meeting on the Department of Energy Research and Development Act of 2014. The legislation did not make it past a first reading and now will be considered at a later date by the full House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

This bill will reauthorize the Office of Science and research and development programs at the Offices of Nuclear Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Fossil Energy, Electricity Delivery, and Energy Reliability, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E). A section-by-section review of the legislation can be found here. While the bill would authorize the Office of Science at a 5 percent increase over current year levels, some of the other authorization levels are below current year levels, including EERE and ARP-E, which would respectively be $486 million below and $40 million  below FY1.

House Appropriations Committee Approves FY15 Defense Appropriations bill

The House Appropriations Committee approved the FY15 Defense Appropriations bill. This legislation includes $11.936 billion for Science and Technology (6.1-6.3) programs at the Department of Defense, a decrease from the FY14 level of $12.185 billion. This legislation includes $2.028 billion for basic research (6.1) at the Department of Defense, a decrease below the current funding level of $2.167 billion.

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