Disability Policy News In Brief

February 6, 2017

AUCD, Disability Policy News In Brief, every Monday AUCD, Disability Policy News In Brief, every Monday
February 6, 2017   |   Vol. XV, Issue 109
AUCD, Disability Policy News In Brief, every Monday, FacebookAUCD, Disability Policy News InBrief, every Monday, TwitterDisability Policy News InBrief, every Monday, SharespaceAUCD, Disability Policy News In Brief, YouTube list Tuesday Morning with LizspaceAUCD, Disability Policy News In Brief, every Monday, Subscription formAUCD, Disability Policy News In Brief, every Monday, ArchiveAUCD, Disability Policy News In Brief, every Monday, RSS


House Speaker Paul Ryan has invited President Trump to address a Joint Session of Congress on Feb. 28 stating, "This will be an opportunity for the people and their representatives to hear directly from our new president about his vision in our shared agenda."

Budget and Appropriations

The Trump Administration stated the Fiscal 2018 President's Budget will not be ready until April or May, not the first week of February as is outlined in law but not enforced.  Rumors continue that the budget will be an outline, dubbed a "skinny" budget, with fewer details than usual.  The postponement may be, in part, due to the delay in the confirmation of Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), the president's nominee for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Another complicating factor in the budget process is that the Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations bills have not been finalized.  The current continuing resolution (CR) expires on April 28.  According to several Hill staff that work on appropriations, it is very likely that the CR will be extended for a full year so that the new Congress can begin work on FY 2018 bills. There could be a small across-the-board cut with the full-year CR since the CR amount breaches the discretionary spending caps by $3 billion.


Secretary of Education

The Senate HELP Committee voted (12-11) in favor of the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. On February 1, two Republican Senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine said they would vote against DeVos, citing her lack of experience in public education among other issues (they are the first two Republicans to break with President Trump on any of his Cabinet picks). Republicans will most likely move her nomination to the front of the line on the Senate floor, since it looks like they may need the vote of Senator Sessions; if Sessions were to be confirmed first and resigned from the Senate, there might only be 49 senators to back DeVos. DeVos' confirmation vote is expected Tuesday.  Currently, it appears that the vote will be 50-50 in which case Vice President Pence will have to break the tie.  AUCD sent a letter to the HELP Committee with serious concerns about her qualifications and signed onto a similar CCD letter.  Several other disability organizations have signed a letter opposing the nomination.  Many network members have communicated serious concerns with their members of Congress about this nomination.

Attorney General

On February 1, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-9 along party lines to recommend the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to be the next Attorney General; this now moves to the Senate floor for a final vote, where he is expected to be confirmed. 

Secretary of State

On February 1, the Senate approved former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to lead the State Department. Tillerson was approved in a 56-43 vote. Though most Democrats voted against Tillerson, he received some Democratic support from Senators Manchin (WV), Heitkamp (ND), Warner (VA) and Independent Senator King (ME) who joined all Republicans in backing him; Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) skipped the vote. Tillerson addressed the State Department employees on February 2.

EPA Administrator and Secretary of the Treasury

On February 1, Senate Democrats boycotted a committee vote on Scott Pruitt, President Trump's nominee to head up the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), preventing the Environment and Public Works committee from moving his confirmation forward. The committee needed two minority party members for a quorum to vote according to the rules. The committee suspended the rules and voted 11-0 vote to send the nomination to the full Senate, where Mr. Pruitt will most likely be approved next week.

Similarly, Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee boycotted a meeting to consider the nomination of Steve Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary and the nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) for Secretary of Health and Human Services. The Committee suspended the rules and approved both nominations the following day.  Both nominees will likely be confirmed by the full Senate this week. See answers to questions from Price to Chairman Wyden for information on a range of important issues including home and community based services and supports.


Supreme Court Justice

On January 30, President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to succeed Antonin Scalia (who passed away on February 13, 2016) on the U.S. Supreme Court. Several Democratic leaders immediately stated their opposition to Gorsuch. President Trump urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to abolish the filibuster (eliminating the need for 60 votes) for Supreme Court nominees if Democrats block his nomination. Gorsuch has authored a handful of opinions limiting the ability of students with disabilities, specifically children with autism, to seek protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Disability rights advocates are currently reviewing these records.  See some of the information we have gathered so far.

ACA Hearings

A number of House and Senate hearings examining the Affordable Care Act were held last week. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), held a hearing on February 1 to examine the "failures and consequences" of the 2010 health care law and to discuss patient-centered solutions toward better, more affordable health care.On February 1, the Senate HELP Committee held a full committee hearing  entitled, Obamacare Emergency: Stabilizing the Individual Health Insurance Market. The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a second hearing on February 2, titled Patient Relief from Collapsing Health Markets. Three bills that were introduced in the last Congress were re-introduced last week, aimed at improving the health care system. None of the three bills would provide comprehensive, affordable, and accessible health care.

This week, on February 7, the House Small Business Committee, Chaired by Steve Chabot (R-OH), will hold a hearing on "Reimagining the Health Care Marketplace for America's Small Businesses."

In all of the hearings and in meetings with staff of Members of Congress, it is becoming clear that Congress is struggling with the details of how to reform the health care system (See today's Wall Street Journal for more).


The House Education and the Workforce Committee announced a hearing to be held on February 7.  The title of the hearing is "Challenges and Opportunities in Higher Education."  See the witness list on the committee website where the hearing can also be viewed online.

Health Care Advocates and Stories needed!

Advocates Needed - We are looking for strong advocates who are willing to take action when needed on advocating at a local, state, and federal level for comprehensive, affordable, and accessible health insurance. If you are interested or know someone who may be interested in signing up as a strong advocate, please provide name, email, and state to Christine Grosso.

Stories Needed - We are also looking for those willing to gather and/or share stories about how the ACA and/or Medicaid has played a role in improving your well-being or that of someone you know. If you are interested or know someone who may be interested in sharing stories, please provide your stories to Christine Grosso.

Not sure if you or someone you know has benefited from the ACA or is on Medicaid? Not to worry! Use these helpful guides to find out: ACA Questions and State Medicaid Program Names.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

This week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All Liz interviews Jamie Vickery, Director of Federal Affair at March of Dimes, about the Zika virus and how to protect against it.  In case you missed last week's episode, Liz interviewed Caitlin Morris and Dee Mahan. They both work on health policy for Families USA and staff a new coalition called "Protect our Care."


For more from AUCD, follow @AUCDNews and like AUCD on Facebook

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

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 

AUCD | 1100 Wayne Avenue, Suite 1000 | Silver Spring | MD | 20910