Washington Update, October 1, 2023

Dear Colleagues:


We have averted a shutdown…for now. On Saturday evening, with just hours to spare and with bi-partisan action, Congress extended current government funded for 45 days – to November 17th, preventing a government shutdown that otherwise would have occurred at the start of the new fiscal year on Sunday. 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 bi-partisan action could mean for Speaker 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 threated 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’s known as a “motion to vacate” can be a powerful way to apply pressure to a speaker. The motion would need a majority vote to pass, meaning Gaetz would need at least some Democrats to vote aye to pass.


While so much surrounding what’s next in Congress remains unknown, we do know that 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-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 it failed 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, DC- stay tuned.


1. 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 an Francisco City Hall on Wednesday 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 last Thursday following months of declining health at the age of 90.


2. 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:

  • 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 hasn’t yet enacted a FY 2024 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill or another CR.

3. In the States: Oklahoma Substitute Teacher Shortage Impacting Student Programming

Seventy-three percent of school districts across the state of Oklahoma report they anticipate a shortage of substitute teachers will impact their capacity to deliver instruction this school year. In a recent interview, Aaron Espolt, superintendent of Shawnee Public Schools said in part, “As long as there’s a teacher shortage, there’s going to be a substitute shortage, as well.” Currently, pay at the largest Oklahoma City-area districts ranges between $85-$125 a day for substitutes with a teaching license and $70-$110 for those who are uncertified. Yet, many substitute teachers say this pay rate is not sustainable- particularly when other hourly jobs in the area offer higher wages. However, rather than paying more, some school districts face the possibility of cutting their substitute pay. Putnam City and Oklahoma City schools both increased their daily rates for substitutes with federal COVID-19 relief money — funding that will expire next year. Its reported that all of Oklahoma City Public Schools’ substitute pay comes from pandemic relief dollars. District administrators said they haven’t decided what rate their schools will pay next year.


Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead.


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