AUCD Legislative News In Brief

December 8, 2014

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
    December 8, 2014   |  Vol. XIV, Issue 49
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Congressional Schedule

The House and Senate are scheduled to be in session for one more week before the end of the 114th Congress.  This week, they must act on funding for the federal government before the current continuing resolution expires this Thursday, December 11.  We are also hopeful that the Senate will pass the ABLE Act (see below).


House and Senate appropriations leaders continue to work on an agreement to finalize federal funding for fiscal year 2015 that began on October 1. According to current reports, appropriators are working on an omnibus spending bill that incorporates 11 of the 12 regular annual appropriations bills, including the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education bill. Lawmakers are reserving the 12th bill, which funds the Department of Homeland Security, because of controversy over the President's announcement of executive action on immigration. That department will likely be funded through a short continuing resolution, rather than a regular funding bill so that the new Congress can decide its funding levels when it convenes in January.


On Wednesday evening, the House of Representatives passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE Act; H.R. 647) by a vote of 404-17. After the vote, the House wrapped the ABLE Act into a large package of "tax extenders" - a group of other tax bills expected to be taken up by the Senate this week. The ABLE Act would create tax-preferred savings accounts that allow people with disabilities to accumulate assets while maintaining eligibility for SSI and Medicaid. To reduce the bill's cost, the bill's authors had to make some changes since it was first introduced: accounts are now limited to those whose disabilities began before age 26 and contributions are limited to $14,000 per year. The bill also includes provisions to offset the cost of the legislation, estimated to be about $2 billion over 10 years. A full summary of the bill and off sets is available from Committee on Ways and Means. On Friday, Senator Casey (D-PA) gave a press conference at the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University about the ABLE Act.

Group Photo at Press Conference


Federal Health Insurance Programs

Long-Term Fiscal Outlook

On December 9, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing titled "Setting Fiscal Priorities." According to Subcommittee Chair Joe Pitts (R-PA), the hearing will address future projected spending on health care through Medicare, Medicaid, and Affordable Care Act programs. Witnesses include Mark Miller, Executive Director of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission; Chris Holt, Director of Health Care Policy of the American Action Forum; and Marc Goldwein, Senior Policy Director of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Children's Health Insurance Program

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing last week on the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). A video of the hearing is archived on the committee website. As part of the hearing, the committee requested input from Governors on the state-operated CHIP program. The responses show that Governors overwhelmingly support extending funding for the CHIP program, which is scheduled to expire on September 30, 2015.

Affordable Care Act

In one of his last acts as House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman, Darrell Issa (R-CA) will hold a hearing tomorrow titled "Health Care Law Enrollment Issues." Marilyn Tavenner, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will testify. In the 114th Congress, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) is expected to as assume the Chairmanship.

Clinical Research

On December 4, 50 members of Congress sent a letter to the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dr. Francis Collins, urging the agency to adequately track whether children are appropriately included in all of its clinical trials relevant to child health. The effort was led by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Mike Simpson (R-ID) and David Joyce (R-OH). The letter was supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics. According to the AAP, the NIH has required that children be included in research studies since 1997. However, while the NIH carefully tracks the inclusion of women and minorities in NIH-funded research by gathering data on the sex/gender and race/ethnicity of enrollees in clinical studies, the agency does not systematically track the ages of those enrolled in studies.

International Disability Rights

International Day of Persons with Disability

December 3 was the International Day of Persons with Disability. President Obama issued a proclamation of the day and the National Council on Disability issued a statement of support and observation.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Also on December 3, Senator Harkin held a call with disability advocates regarding the status of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The Senator explained that, despite the strong efforts of advocates, the Senate will not ratify the CRPD this year.  He thanked advocates for their work and shared his plans for future efforts to help countries implement the CRPD around the globe. As he has said many times, including at the AUCD Conference, he is "retiring from the Senate, but not from the fight" for disability rights. After December, when he leaves the Senate, he can be contacted through the Harkin Institute. Learn more about the status of the CRPD and disability rights around the globe from the US International Council on Disabilities.

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For definitions of terms used in In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms.
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