Jan. 12, 2011
Washington, D.C., President Andrew Johnson said, is 12 square miles bordered by reality — or so one apocryphal quotation goes.
Real or unreal, spring 2011 will be interesting in the capital.
Take Republican gains in Congress, mix in White House staff changes, nascent 2012 presidential campaigns, and add a federal budget to fix and that should make more than enough to keep one’s attention — or so I hope.
This semester, I’ll be writing from Capitol Hill. I’m one of fifteen Tar Heels who have temporarily relocated to D.C. on UNC’s Burch Policy Semester.
So goodbye, student government. Hello, federal government!
Capitol Hill may be six hours drive from Chapel Hill, but it’s unlikely that UNC will stray too far from my mind in the next few months: I’m living in a house with fourteen other UNC students.
We have one day of class each week, and for the other four days, we will be off interning in a variety of placements: nonprofits and think tanks, on congressional committee staff and even with Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). (I’m at the Pew Research Center.)
For now, though, we’re just arriving and finding our feet: unlearning everything Chapel Hill taught about jaywalking, reading the lists of what not to do as a D.C. intern, exploring the Mall in the snow and, of course, working out where to watch Carolina basketball.
But as this semester progresses, I’m going to use this column to examine some of the decisions and events inside the Beltway of particular significance to our University community.
The talk of the town right now — other than Saturday’s tragic shooting, which has left members of Congress and their staffers suddenly concerned about personal safety — is the federal budget. The new Republican House leadership has committed to reducing non-defense spending to 2008 levels.
And that’s a huge deal for UNC because it includes federal research funding: The University benefited to the tune of $432 million in 2009 alone.
To put that in context, $432 million is almost double what tuition and fees raise ($237 million), only one fifth less than UNC’s total state appropriations ($538 million), and 20 percent of its annual revenue ($2.2 billion).
So as Congress approaches the March 4 deadline to come up with a new budget, one can’t blame UNC and its peer institutions for being a little nervous.
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