Disability Policy News In Brief

May 4, 2015

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May 4, 2015   |   Vol. XV, Issue 18
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Congressional Schedule

The House of Representative is not in session this week, they will reconvene on May 13th.  The Senate is in session.


The House and Senate conference committee finished its work on the Budget Resolution (see also the committee report) on Thursday sending the agreement to the two chambers for a vote. The following day the House of Representatives passed the budget resolution along party lines, with 226 Republicans voting for it and 14 Republicans joining all Democrats in voting against.  The Senate has not yet scheduled its floor vote. The agreement locks the sequestered discretionary caps in place and doubles the impact of sequester cuts over the next decade. Starting in 2016, non-defense discretionary spending would be cut by an average of $37 billion per year, on top of the Budget Control Act's spending caps. The resolution also provides reconciliation instructions to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA); and would make huge cuts to Medicaid and Medicare. (See a more detailed summary prepared by the Center on Budget.)

Though the budget does not need to be signed by the president and therefore does not become law, it informs spending decisions made in the House and Senate as they appropriate funds, as well as outlines Congress' priorities for spending purposes. Many disability and health coalitions issued strong statements in opposition to the Budget agreement. CCD Chair Katy Neas said, "this budget represents the wrong priorities for our country... Instead of cutting research, education, employment, health care and other things that help people with disabilities, we should be making smart investments in them that will help to improve lives and strengthen our economy." The Coalition for Health Funding also issued a statement pointing out that more than 2,100 organizations (including AUCD) have repeatedly urged Congress to replace harmful sequestration cuts with a balanced approach to deficit reduction that recognizes the equal importance of defense and nondefense programs in our national and economic security.

Meanwhile, House Democrats are uniting behind a plan to vote against every spending bill in an effort to pressure Republican leaders come to the table to negotiate another budget deal that equally raises defense and nondefense spending caps.  President Obama also issued a statement that he would not sign a funding bill that adheres to the sequestration caps.

For information about the current budget and appropriations process, see the Committee for Responsible Federal Budget 101 on Appropriations.


The House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee held a two-day hearing to hear from public witnesses regarding federal funding for programs under its jurisdiction.  AUCD submitted written testimony for the record related to its network funding requests for the University Centers for Excellence in Disabilities (UCEDD), Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Centers (IDDRC), and the Leadership in Education and Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) programs. AUCD also signed onto testimony submitted by the Friends of NICHD, which includes support for the IDDRC network.  Finally, in response to testimony submitted by the VOR critical to federal funding for programs and regulations supporting community living, several national organizations submitted letters in support of community integration, including one by the Collaboration to Support Self-Determination that AUCD signed.


In anticipation of a Senate vote on the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) before the Memorial Day recess, AUCD along with other disability and civil rights advocates, have been meeting daily with targeted Senators in an effort to improve the bill before it becomes final.  ECAA is the bipartisan agreement to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  While the agreement maintains some federal accountability, such as annual assessments, the collection of data on subgroups, and maintenance of the 1% cap on alternate assessments, the bill significantly reduces the federal role in education in general and takes away the Department's ability to deal with schools where students persistently fail.  The House bill (HR 5) continues to be stalled, having failed to garner at least 218 votes to approve the bill.  House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy affirmed his commitment to bringing the House GOP reauthorization of the ESEA for a vote, in his monthly memo for May.  McCarthy did not offer any details about the timing or alternative strategy but did state that the timing, "will be relayed as soon as possible." 

Education Funding Rule

The Secretary of Education published a final Rule amending the state maintenance of effort under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under IDEA, schools are required to spend at least as much on special education as they did the prior year. Failure to do so may result in the loss of federal funding. The rule clarifies that in cases where school districts do not maintain their state effort for any given year, the state is still expected to achieve the original, higher funding level for future years.  See the text of the Rule in the Federal Register.

Health Care

President Obama signed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization (H.R. 2) into law on April 12.  The bill reauthorizes the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), along with other HRSA programs whose funding would have expired, including Community Health Centers, the National Health Service Corps, the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program and the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program.  The bill repeals the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula and replaces it with a formula that returns stability to Medicare physician payments.  For more information, see the House Committee summary and section-by-section analysis.

NIH Research
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held another hearing on the 21st Century Cures Initiative, a  bipartisan initiative that began in April of 2014 by Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), which aims to conduct a comprehensive look at the cycle of cures, from discovery to development to delivery. Witnesses included Kathy Hudson, PhD, NIH deputy director for science, outreach and policy, Janet Woodcock, MD, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the FDA, and Jeffrey Shuren, MD, JD, director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health at the FDA. The day before the hearing, Chairman Upton released a second draft bill. The legislation would provide a significant boost to National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, including a $10 billion increase in mandatory funding over the next five years for the NIH Innovation Fund and an annual $1.5 billion per year increase in NIH discretionary spending for the next three years.  For more information, see the committee website for hearings and Rep. Diana Degette's site for White Papers and related forums.

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

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


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