Disability Policy News In Brief

January 12, 2015

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January 12, 2015   |   Vol. XV, Issue 2
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Congressional Schedule

The House and Senate are in session this week. The Senate is expected to vote on a bill to authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline. The House will begin work on appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security, which expire February 27. The House Clerk has also released the Official Member Telephone Directory for the 114th Congress.

Congressional Leadership

House and Senate leaders announced key committee chairs and ranking minority members last week. They are as follows:

  • Senate Budget: Mike Enzi (R-WY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
  • Senate Appropriations: Thad Cochran (R-MS), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
  • Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP): Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Patty Murray
  • Senate Finance: Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Ron Widen (D-OR)
  • Senate Judiciary: Charles Grassley (R-IA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
  • House Budget: Tom Price (R-GA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
  • House Appropriations: Hal Rogers (R-KY), Nita Lowey (D-NY)
  • House Education and Workforce: John Kline (R-MN), Bobby Scott (D-VA)
  • House Ways and Means Committee: Paul Ryan (R-WS), Chair, Sander Levin (D-MI)
  • House Judiciary: Robert Goodlatte (R-VA), John Conyers (D-MI)

The Subcommittee with jurisdiction over most disability-related funding is the Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-ED.  We have learned that Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) has been selected to chair the House subcommittee; and last week it was rumored that Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is vying for chairmanship of the Senate Subcommittee.  Sen. Cochran is expected to make a decision this week.


It appears that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) Act is heating up. The law expired in 2007, and congressional education leaders have said they hope to have a bill through committee and to the floor in each chamber by the spring. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan outlined the Administration's priorities in speech last week calling on Congress to continue annual standardized testing.  The Senate plans to hold its first hearing on the reauthorization on January 20 focusing on the topic of testing.  In addition, a coalition of about 20 civil rights groups released a statement outlining principles for the reauthorization.  The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities is also updating its principles for the reauthorization that will be released soon.

Social Security Disability Insurance

Last week, the House of Representatives adopted a rule for the 114th Congress that could destabilize Social Security by preventing a routine, technical fix. The rule disallows any change in the Social Security Trust Funds that decreases the actuarial balance of the Old-Age & Survivors Trust Fund or the combined Old-Age, Survivors, & Disability Insurance Trust Fund. The Disability Insurance Trust Fund is expected to be depleted in late 2016, leaving the Social Security Administration able to pay only about 80% of benefits. Disability advocates support the proposal of Social Security's Chief Actuary for a small short-term reallocation of payroll taxes to shore up the DI fund. This has occurred many times in past decades and in both directions between the Old Age/Survivors and Disability funds. The House rule disallows such reallocation and instead will mathematically require either a tax increase or benefit cut in the DI program. Learn more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Fiscal Policy

The rules package passed by the House last week also included a change to how Congress estimates the fiscal impact of proposed legislation. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the overall cost or savings of legislation over a 10 year window, a figure known as the "score." For tax measures the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) also produces a score. This score takes into account legislated changes to federal taxes or spending, including accounting for  behavioral changes by individuals and firms that affect spending or tax receipt. It does not include macroeconomic effects, changes to the nation's overall economy and resulting changes in spending or tax receipt. CBO and JCT have included along with their official scores a range of macroeconomic forecasts under a number of scenarios. Macroeconomic forecasting is notoriously difficult and the performance of the economy depends on a number of factors beyond the control of Congress. The new rule would require these macroeconomic forecasts - known as "dynamic scoring" - to be included in the official cost estimates of major tax or mandatory spending legislation on things like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Rather than a range of forecasts, the rule requires the CBO and JCT to pick one forecast and include it in their official estimates. Many advocates fear that this will ease the way for further tax cuts by using unreliable macroeconomic estimates of economic output that make costs look smaller than they are. For more information see analyses from the Tax Policy Center and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Medicare and Medicaid

On January 8, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon introduced a resolution commemorating 50 years since the creation of the Medicare and Medicaid programs under President Lyndon Johnson. The resolution was cosponsored by 44 members and calls for support of the Medicare and Medicaid programs as a safety net for millions of Americans. 


Secretary of Labor Tom Perez announced last week the 17 public members who will serve on the new Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities. Created by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the Committee will advise the Secretary of Labor on ways to increase competitive integrated employment opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities. Two AUCD network members will serve on the committee - Valerie Brooke of Virginia Commonwealth University and David Mank, Director of the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community at Indiana University. The first meeting is scheduled for January 22 and 23 in Washington, DC.

Child Abuse Prevention

The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities is holding an open meeting all day today and tomorrow in Phoenix, AZ.  Commission members will discuss the scope of child abuse and neglect fatalities, data collection, risk factors, and how to prioritize prevention services for families with the greatest needs. The commission is mandated by the "Protect our Kids Act of 2012" (P.L. 112-275) to provide policy recommendations to the President and the Congress within two years.  The next public meeting will be held in Oregon on Feb. 26-27.  Visit the commission website for more information, including a link to provide input.

For updates from our Executive Director Andy Imparato, follow @AndyAUCD.

For more policy news, follow Kim and Rachel on Twitter at @kmusheno and @racheljpat

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

For copies of this and previous issues of Legislative News In Brief please visit the Public Policy Page of the AUCD website: http://www.aucd.org/template/page.cfm?id=164

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