* Good news…
The new budget agreement making its way through Congress should have “significant benefits” for the University of Illinois and its researchers, its chief federal lobbyist says.
The two-year deal struck by Republicans and Democrats last week, and approved Thursday by the House, would provide partial relief for the cuts imposed by the budget sequester last spring and give federal agencies some certainty in budget planning, said Jon Pyatt, UI director of federal relations.
“We really see this as a positive sign. We’ve been lurching from crisis to crisis for the last several years,” Pyatt said.
* Bad news…
University of Illinois Board Chair Chris Kennedy is sounding an alarm, worried a bid by the school and its partners for a $70 million federal Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute grant may be influenced by a senator’s clout — and end up in Huntsville, Ala.
Kennedy, noting the clout history of Illinois — harking back to the days when the late Rep. Dan Rostenkowki, D-Ill., could vastly influence decisions — told me Sunday, “there is a certain irony to the fact that we may lose a big federal grant to clout.”
“The university has lots of supporters, elected officials, government workers, and that network is providing us with feedback, and that feedback is indicating perhaps a certain United States senator is so focused on bringing home this grant to his Southern state that we may not get it,” Kennedy said.
The senator in question is Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee Defense spending subcommittee, and this is a Defense Department project. Durbin has written two letters to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to bolster the U. of I. bid, on Aug. 8 and Nov. 8. Durbin’s Nov. 8 letter was signed by a total of 16 senators, including Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.
If Durbin gets outmaneuvered by Shelby on this one, then what good is he? I mean, the Senate is majority Democratic, he’s chairman of a powerful subcommittee and is the number 2 guy in Senate leadership.