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Government Funding Extended, Shutdown Avoided

This weekly Washington Update is intended to keep members informed on Capitol Hill activities impacting the educator preparation community. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

On Saturday evening, with just hours to spare and with bipartisan action, Congress extended current government funding for 45 days – to November 17, preventing a government shutdown that otherwise would have occurred at the start of the new fiscal year on Sunday, October 1.

The bill is described as a relatively “clean” continuing resolution (CR), without the deep funding cuts to most domestic programs that some hardline conservatives sought or the emergency funding for Ukraine that many Democrats and some Republicans wanted. It remains to be seen what the decision to move forward with bipartisan action could mean for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

On Monday, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) offered a motion to vacate the chair on the House floor — a rare procedural move that can be used to force a vote to remove the speaker. Gaetz and other hardline conservatives from the House Freedom Caucus have threatened to oust McCarthy over relying on Democratic votes, as he did Saturday to advance legislation to avoid a government shutdown. No House speaker has ever been ousted through the passage of a resolution to remove them, but threats over the use of what is known as a “motion to vacate,” can be a powerful way to apply pressure to a speaker.

While so much surrounding what is next in Congress remains unknown, House Republicans plan to be in session this entire month and plan to vote on remaining government spending bills. At this time, it appears that the Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS) Education bill will be brought to the floor for consideration the last week of October into the first week of November. The plans for the Senate are less clear after failing to get consent to start considering three FY 2024 bills that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved with bipartisan support.

No matter what the path forward may be, it is certain to be a busy 45 days in Washington, D.C.

California Governor Appoints Senator Feinstein’s Replacement

On Monday, California Governor Gavin Newsome appointed EMILY’s List President Laphonza Butler to the seat held by former California Senator Dianne Feinstein until the general election in November 2024. Butler will be the only Black woman in the Senate and the first openly LGBTQ senator from California. She was previously the president of the California Service Employees International Union and served on the University of California Board of Regents.

Senator Feinstein will lie in state at San Francisco City Hall on Wednesday, October 4 ahead of funeral services Thursday. Senator Feinstein was a trailblazer whose three decades in the Senate made her the longest- serving female senator in history. Senator Feinstein died on September 28 following months of declining health at the age of 90.

Department of Education Releases Series of Actions and Notices

At the end of last week, the Department of Education released a series of actions and notices, including the following:

  • A report on “Strategies for Increasing Diversity and Opportunity in Higher Education” in response to the Supreme Court’s decision that means colleges cannot directly consider an applicant’s race in making admissions decisions.

  • An issue paper seeking feedback on initial policy considerations for its negotiated rulemaking in how to provide regulatory relief for certain categories of student loan borrowers.
  • Its plan in case of a shutdown. It includes useful information about what actions and funding would continue if there is a shutdown; this may be relevant again on November 17, if Congress hasnot yet enacted an FY2024 HHS Education appropriations bill or another CR.

Until next time, see you on X (formerly Twitter), Kait @brennan_kait