Government Relations Report: September

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It is something of an understatement to say that for the time being, at least, Washington is focused on something other than funding and potential government shutdowns. In a flurry of activity, Congress agreed to a three-month continuing resolution (CR) that postponed final funding decisions for FY 2018 until December 8, raised the debt ceiling for three months, and made a down payment on hurricane relief funding for Texas.

Congress and the country are focused on providing relief to storm-damaged areas in Florida, whether there will be a tax reform proposal to consider by the end of the year, how to deal with the DACA issue and continuing tensions on the Korean peninsula. In addition, because of arcane rules, the House and Senate need to adopt budget resolutions to enable them to proceed with tax reform efforts.

There are concerns about whether Congress, which has been unable to accomplish virtually anything of consequence all year, would be able to accomplish all of this in the three months of 2017 that remain. The correct answer seems to be that nobody knows.

And, with Washington being Washington, there is continued interest in whether a new way of the Administration and Congressional Democrats doing business together has been established.

What we do know is that both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have approved Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bills which fund adult education at the FY 2017 level. The Congress did not act on the President's proposal to reduce funding for adult education by $96 million, or 16 percent.

A few key points about the rest of the year:

  • There is no bi-partisan budget agreement in place that undoes the sequester levels. There is no parity between defense and non-defense spending. But the caps on defense and non-defense spending remain in place.
  • The Administration requested a $54 billion increase in defense spending, but the existing spending caps preclude an increase of that magnitude. An increase in defense spending requires that the defense cap be raised. Such a move is likely to require that the cap on non-defense spending also be increased.
  • The allocations to the respective Labor-HHS Appropriations subcommittees are particularly important. There is a wide difference between the House and Senate Labor-HHS bills. The gap is sufficiently wide enough that many doubt that the differences can be bridged. Barring a new budget agreement, a long-term CR may be in the offing.
  • The debt ceiling will need to be raised to enable the government to pay its obligations. This will create a crisis situation in which both sides will jockey for advantageous positions and be a test of whether the Administration and the Democrats can work together.

Experts believe that we are facing a binary choice: either a budget agreement or a CR that will run for the entire year.

We need to continue our efforts to Educate and Elevate national public awareness campaign because final funding decisions for FY 2018 must still be made. This campaign was launched to encourage legislators to invest in Adult Education. Get the details HERE 

Other Issues

More than 50 adult education advocates, along with students, are scheduled to participate in the COABE Hill Day on September 26 to coincide with Adult Ed and Family Literacy Week. We anticipate at least 100 meetings will occur as COABE members and several State Directors of Adult Education visit the Hill to make the case for additional investments in adult education. As we ramp up to Capitol Hill Day, we encourage all members every where to raise your voice on behalf of Adult Education. We have provided a very user friendly tool that enables you to contact your mayor, governor, and members of congress with one simple click. More than 16,000 contacts have been made since February. Join the movement and send your email ( HERE) or make your call (HERE) on behalf of Adult Education!