Disability Policy News In Brief

April 10, 2017

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April 10, 2017   |   Vol. XV, Issue 117
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Congressional Schedule

This week and next, April 10-21, your members of Congress will be back in their state/district, which is a great time to schedule an in-person meeting. The Hill reported that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Republicans as they departed that their recesses could be cut short if a deal is reached on legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare (see Health care below for more details and a CCD recess Action Alert).


Government funding under a continuing resolution (PL 114-254) runs out on April 28, which means when Congress returns from recess it only has four legislative working days to pass an additional measure to keep the federal government operating.. While appropriations staff have been working for months to negotiate a package to include the 12 funding bills, it is unclear whether there is total agreement between leaders in the House, Senate, and the White House on a final bill. Some Democrats publicly worried that unacceptable policy riders will be added at the end. If no deal is reached by April 28, another short-term CR could be passed while negotiations continue.  AUCD is urging Congress to pass an omnibus bill (which combines one or more of those 12 bills into a single bill) without policy riders.

A number of Representatives have sent "Dear Colleague" letters to appropriations leaders to demonstrate their support of specific programs.  Below are a few letters finalized this week.


  • Thirty-four Members of the House of Representatives signed onto a Dear Colleague letter authored by Representative James Langevin (D-RI) in support of the Developmental Disabilities Act programs: $40 million for University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, $42 million for Protection and Advocacy Systems, and $76 million for Councils on Developmental Disabilities.
  • Twenty-eight Members of the House of Representatives signed onto a Dear Colleague letter authored by Representatives Susan Bonamici  (D-OR) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) in support of the $728 million funding request for the Institutes of Education Sciences (IES).  IES is an independent branch of the Department of Education and plays a critical role in examining the effectiveness of education programs, including special education programs. 
  • Twenty-six Members signed on to a bipartisan letter written by Reps. Langevin and Gregg Harper (R-MS) in support of funding for the Lifespan Respite Care Act program.  The Lifespan Respite Care Act was first authorized in 2006 and is the only federal program to address respite issues for families regardless of age or disability.


Network members and allies are encouraged to thank their Members of Congress that signed on in support of these important programs.

Health Care


During the upcoming recess there is an urgent need for advocates to continue to educate their Members of Congress on the importance of the ACA and Medicaid as well as the negative impact the American Health Care Act or any similar proposals would have on people with disabilities. The need for continued education is imperative given the ongoing negotiations between the House and the Administration as they try to apply enough pressure and find enough votes to the move the bill.

Please see the CCD action alert for background, talking points, and actions items.


On April 4, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Or) issued a statement after the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department failed to reply to his letter requesting assurances that the agency has procedures in place to ensure that newly appointed Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma is in compliance with ethics agreements (please December 5 issue of In Brief for background). Senator Wyden's letter expresses his concern to ensure that public officials do not personally benefit from the programs they oversee - "To preserve the integrity of the waiver process, protections must be put in place and made available to the public so Ms. Verma does not end up reviewing the same state programs that, until several months ago, she was paid to guide and direct."

Tracking Poll

The Kaiser Family Foundation released results of a Kaiser Health Tracking Poll that asked a series of questions related to the current state of the Affordable Care Act, likelihood of the American Health Care Act passing, outcome of priorities outlined by our current president, and more.  The results showed strong support for the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) and strong opposition to the ACHA.

Supreme Court

On Friday, April 7, the full Senate confirmed Gorsuch to the serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. The vote came a day after Republicans successfully voted to approve what is known as the "nuclear option," changing Senate rules to allow the confirmation of Gorsuch and all other Supreme Court nominees by a simple-majority vote (51 instead of 60 votes). The court has been operating with eight justices since the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016 and a protracted fight over President Barack Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. Senate Republicans refused to consider Garland's nomination until after the November election. Please see last week's issue of In Brief for a letter that summarizes Gorsuch's case history and an analysis of his disability cases. It is unclear how these actions will affect the Senate's legislative agenda.

Asset Development

On April 4th, a bi-partisan group of Members of Congress, including Senators Burr (R-NC), Casey (D-PA), Moran (R-KA) and Van Hollen (D-MD), and Representatives Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) re-introduced the package of bills aimed at enhancing the benefits provided through the Stephen Beck Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. This package of bills consists of the following three pieces of proposed legislation: The ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 817/HR 1874) would raise the age limit for ABLE accounts to age 46 (currently 26); ABLE Financial Planning Act (S. 816/HR 1897) would allow families to rollover savings in a 529 college savings plan into an ABLE account (and would still be subject to the annual contribution limit of $14,000); ABLE to Work Act (S. 818/HR 1896) would allow individuals and their families to save more money in an ABLE account if the beneficiary works and earns income.

Public Policy Committee

The AUCD Public Policy Committee monthly call will take place tomorrow, April 11 at 4 p.m. Guest speaker John Wodatch, a civil rights attorney with a prominent role in drafting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), will be speaking about the ADA and the impact of recent proposed changes. If any network members would like to join the call, please contact Christine Grosso at [email protected].

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

In this week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All Liz interviews Timotheus Gordon, LEND fellow in Illinois, about the development of an online study that he developed about people with Autism and who are also people with color. In case you missed it last week, Liz interviewed Finn Gardiner about developing a database for Autistic individuals.



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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 

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