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A New Year, a New Administration and a New Congress

Congress convened on January 3 to usher in the 115th Congress and begin immediate work in an effort to deliver on election promises. With Republican majorities in both houses, an incoming Republican administration and one of the busiest Congressional calendars in years, 2017 promises to be an action-packed year that will bring much change.

To ensure President-elect Trump and his administration can fulfill an ambitious agenda set for the first 100 days, Congress has set to work confirming Trump’s cabinet nominations as quickly as possible. In addition to confirming Trump’s incoming cabinet and administration, the House and Senate are also busy putting in place their own leadership and filling out committees with newly-elected members. For the Senate and House committees with jurisdiction over healthcare, education, employment and retirement policies, and the committees that cover most of CUPA-HR’s issues, there have been some changes for the 115th Congress.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has a new incoming chairwoman, Virginia Foxx (R-NC). Foxx is no stranger to higher education; prior to serving in Congress, she served as president of Maryland Community College and held a variety of positions in higher education, including research assistant, sociology instructor and several administrative positions at Arizona State University. Foxx was elected to Congress in 2004 and has held several leadership positions, including secretary of the House Republican Conference and more recently chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development. As Foxx stated when announcing the newest members to the committee as well as subcommittee leadership: “This committee will play a central role in Congress’s broader efforts to grow the economy, advance patient-centered healthcare, and promote greater prosperity for all Americans.”

Ranking member Bobby Scott (D-VA) will continue to lead the minority as he begins his 13th term in Congress. Rep. Scott has continuously served on the Committee on Education and Workforce since he was first elected to Congress in 1993 and has also served on the Committee on the Judiciary, Committee on the Budget, and the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Scott has been a vocal proponent of raising the minimum wage and DOL’s overtime rule, and he was one of four primary negotiators of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for the first time in 13 years, replacing the No Child Left Behind Act.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) has undergone less change than in the House and will continue to be led by Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA). Having previously served as Education Secretary and the University of Tennessee’s president, Sen. Alexander intimately knows and understands higher education’s issues, and from previous years serving as chairman knows the challenges facing employers, as well. Sen. Murray has served in the Senate since 1992 and as a member of Democratic leadership since 2007. In addition to her service on the HELP committee, she also serves as a member of the Committee on the Budget, the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the Appropriations Committee. The HELP committee’s early work will be focused on getting President-elect Trump’s nominees for Education Secretary (Betsy DeVos), Health and Human Services Secretary (Tom Price) and Labor Secretary (Andy Puzder) through the confirmation process.

As the confirmation process moves along and the two committees begin to set their agendas for the upcoming year, we will be sure to provide updates as we hear more.

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