Legislative News InBrief

May 21, 2007

FY 2008 Budget and Appropriations
The House and Senate passed a final FY 2008 budget resolution on May 17th, which includes $2.96 trillion in spending, an increase of $132 billion over the estimated fiscal year FY 2007 level. The budget assumes an FY 2008 deficit of $251.6 billion, and proposes to reach a $41 billion surplus by 2012. The federal debt is estimated at $9.5 trillion in 2008. The budget resolution is an overall blue print for Congress to establish spending and revenue targets for the government. It is not signed by the President and therefore does not become law. It does not provide actual spending and revenue provisions, but rather establishes limits for the appropriations, tax, and authorizing committees to abide by as actual legislation is developed by Congress.

The House resolution passed 214-209 with no Republicans voting for the measure. The Senate passed the measure 52-40 with two Republicans voting for the resolution, Susan Collins (Maine) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).

Specific to the appropriations process, the resolution establishes the total discretionary spending available for the 12 appropriations bills, and provides general, non-binding guidance on how that spending should be allocated. It is the decision of the chairman of the appropriations committee, Senator Byrd (WV) and Congressman Obey (WI), to divide up the total spending among the various appropriations subcommittees. The president has already threatened to veto appropriations bills that exceed those proposed in his budget.

The budget resolution includes $1.1 trillion in discretionary spending for appropriations bills, which is an overall increase of $24 billion (+2.2%) over last year, including a $19 billion decrease (-1%) for defense and a $44 billion increase (+8%) for non-defense spending. The resolution includes the president's defense and war cost request by recommending $145 billion for Iraq in 2008 and $50 billion in 2009. The resolution includes an additional $50 billion over five years for an expansion of children's health care (SCHIP), and $7 billion in additional funds for veterans' health care. The budget includes $55 billion for the discretionary health programs, which is an increase of $2.8 billion (+5.4%) over FY 2007 funding for the Public Health Service agencies -- National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Indian Health Service (IHS), and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The budget resolution also provides an increase of $9.5 billion in discretionary funding for education and training.

Now that the top line spending limit has been established by the budget resolution, the appropriation committee can decide individual subcommittee allocations that are required before bills can be drafted. The Labor HHS Education appropriations bill is currently likely to mark up in the House subcommittee soon after Memorial Day. The Senate is tentatively scheduled to mark up this bill in mid-June. The Congress is also trying to complete action on the second Iraq War supplemental appropriation bill after the President vetoed the first bill over the inclusion of the timeline to withdraw the troops.

DDRC Directors Meeting
Last week Directors from the Developmental Disabilities Research Centers (DDRCs) met in Washington, DC. Advocacy strategies were refined to support an increase in appropriations for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and to restore 24% cuts experienced by centers that were recently renewed. Duane Alexander, Director of NICHD is scheduled to provide testimony to the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee on May 21. Written testimony on behalf of the DDRCs was submitted to the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee by Director Steve Warren.

Higher Education Act
Senate Health Education Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee staff are currently discussing reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Action on reauthorization could come following the Memorial Day recess. AUCD is working in coalition with the National Down Syndrome Society and other groups to expand post-secondary opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities. AUCD has created an Action Alert asking individuals to contact members of the HELP Committee and ask for the support of model demonstration projects to expand post-secondary educational opportunities and provide access to work study for individuals with intellectual disabilities enrolled in programs.

Lifespan Respite Care Act
The newly enacted Lifespan Respite Care Act specifies that Federal Funds will be provided on a competitive grant basis to state Aging and Disability Resource Centers in collaboration with public or private nonprofit statewide respite coalitions or organizations. Priority will be given to applicants who show the greatest likelihood of implementing or enhancing lifespan respite care statewide. While advocates continue to push for $40 million in FY2008 appropriations, statewide coalitions are forming in many states. 

IDEA Part C Regulations
The Department of Education published in the Federal Register on May 9 proposed rules to implement the Part C Early Intervention for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities program. The proposed roles are written to align the Part C program with the new final rules for the Part B IDEA State Grant program. New state accountability and flexibility are among the key changes to the rules. The deadline for public comments to the proposed rules is July 23, 2007. Four regional hearings will occur in: Portland, OR (June 4), Oklahoma City, OK (June 6), Indianapolis, IN (June 11), and Washington, DC (June 14). Comments will not be accepted by email or fax. The proposed rules can be accessed here .

Veterans' Affairs Brain Injury Research
The House Veterans' Affairs Committee began consideration of a slate of bills last week that would expand veterans' health care and benefits. Key among these is H.R. 2199, which would authorize up to five new traumatic brain injury research centers. This bill would authorize $70 million over four years to support research, training and education expenses. The bill would also mandate a comprehensive program for treating traumatic brain injuries at health centers operated by the VA and would also fund a pilot program of mobile veterans' centers intended to improve access to readjustment counseling for returning veterans. Another bill under consideration, H.R. 612, would extend the term of free health care for returning service members from two to five years in order to aid veterans who may have mental health problems which do not become apparent until well after military discharge.