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Federal update: Obama begins second term

January 23, 2013
Lori Clark

Lori Clark

In Washington, D.C. …

On Monday, Jan. 21, President Barack Obama was inaugurated for a second term.

The president’s inaugural speech advanced a more liberal agenda, calling for action on immigration reform, climate change and clean energy technology, gay rights, as well as calling for the need to find common ground and end the bitter partisanship that has paralyzed Washington in recent years.

A president typically will provide a more detailed blueprint of what he hopes to accomplish during the annual State of the Union address; President Obama will deliver his fifth State of the Union address Tuesday, Feb. 12.

Last week, President Obama called for congressional action to help reduce gun violence in the United States

Obama outlined four major legislative proposals:

  • universal background checks for all gun buyers;
  • a crackdown on gun trafficking;
  • a ban on military-style assault weapons; and
  • a ban on ammunition magazines holding more than 10 bullets.

For his part, the President announced 23 executive actions that his administration will undertake to help address the issue of gun violence; his entire plan can be found online. Congress remains divided on the issue of possible restrictions on the ownership, use or other regulations related to guns and ammunition and the Second Amendment, so what gun-related legislation might or might not get passed out of Congress is uncertain at this time.

The federal budget and fiscal situation also is filled with uncertainties.

At this time, there is a Continuing Resolution in effect until March 27 that allows the federal government to keep operating. This Continuing Resolution must either be extended for a portion or all of federal Fiscal Year 2013, or appropriations bills must be passed to avoid any type of government shutdown.

Photo of U.S. CapitolAnother deadline looming on the horizon relates to the provisions contained in the Budget Control Act of 2011 – if Congress is unable to pass FY13 appropriations which identify a specific level of spending cuts, then there will be automatic across-the-board spending reductions in both discretionary and defense programs beginning on March 1, 2013 (this is known as sequestration).

On Monday, Jan. 14, the Office of Management and Budget issued a memorandum to the heads of federal executive departments and agencies. The memorandum explains that if the president has to issue a sequestration order Friday, March 1, then approximately $85 billion in budgetary resources across the federal government will be canceled.

Each agency has been directed to “review grants and contracts to determine where cost savings may be achieved in a manner that is consistent with the applicable terms and conditions, remaining mindful of the manner in which individual contracts or grants advance the core mission of the agency.”

NIU has numerous grants and contracts in place or being negotiated with federal agencies. If you are contacted by a federal sponsor to negotiate or renegotiate a budget for either a new or an existing award, please notify the Office of Sponsored Projects immediately.

In this uncertain fiscal and budgetary climate, it also is important to complete projects funded, in whole or in part with federal funding, on schedule and on budget, with expenditures consistent with program objectives. If you are experiencing any significant delays, you also should contact the Office of Sponsored Projects immediately. Federal agencies will be looking to recoup any and all unexpended funds, and these agencies are increasingly unlikely to approve no-cost extensions and carry-forward requests.

Regarding an extension of the debt ceiling, there has been a temporary reprieve on congressional debate.

The House passed a bill by a vote of 285-144 today that would suspend the debt ceiling until the middle of May and allow the government to borrow as needed to meet spending obligations through May 18.

In a rather interesting twist, the House also added a provision that requires both chambers of Congress to adopt a budget by April 15 or have their congressional pay withheld until the start of the new Congress in 2015. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated that the Senate will pass this House bill as is, and the White House also released a “statement of administration policy” indicating that it would not block this bill or make any changes.

We can expect an interesting and challenging couple of months!

The Voices section of NIU Today features opinions and perspectives from across campus. Lori Clark is director of State and Federal Relations for NIU.