Forget sequestration, the Education Department is going to Vegas.
Despite $2.5 billion in budget cuts and pressure from lawmakers to scale back travel expenses, the Education Department is hosting a three-day Financial Aid Training Conference at the Mandalay Bay resort on the Las Vegas strip in December.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, sent a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Thursday, urging the department to cancel the conference and review other planned travel to determine whether they should “continue while core programs are being reduced.” He also asked to get more information about the conference, including how many people will be attending, and the total cost for rooms.
Unlike many federal agencies, the Education Department made the decision not to furlough its workers to deal with the sequestration cuts that took effect in March, and instead took the spending reductions out of various programs. - Read more information about the conference here
HOUSE APPROVES (SOME OF) THE FARM BILL Despite a veto-threat from President Obama, the House approved a stripped-down farm bill Thursday that does not include funding for food stamps. The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe writes, “The surprise defeat signaled the difficulty congressional leaders face in the coming months in passing legislation on the budget and immigration that is expected to be debated this month and in the fall.” - Read more at The Fiscal Times
IG WARNS POTENTIAL FOOD STAMP WASTE The government might be doling out too much food aid to families using multiple food assistance programs, a new report by the Agriculture Department’s Inspector General said. The report concluded that because the department currently administers 15 different food assistance programs, there is a major risk of duplication. But, the report noted, because the government doesn’t have enough resources to assess whether its wasting money, the extent of overlap is unknown. The programs together have a budget of $114 billion. - Read more at GovExec
SENATE CLOSES IN ON STUDENT LOAN DEAL Senators are close to reaching a deal on student loans that would reset interest rates on subsidized Stafford student loans from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent. The deal ties interest rates to 10-year Treasury notes plus 1.8 percentage points, and caps the rate at 8.25 percent. If the bill passes, it will retroactively apply to any loans issued since July 1. - Read more at Bloomberg