Disability Policy News In Brief

November 12, 2018

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November 12, 2018   |   Vol. XV, Issue 187
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Post-Election Special Edition

Editor's Note

Not all races are final; votes are still being counted in several areas. AUCD will continue to monitor and provide updates on relevant outcomes.

80+ New Members of Congress

At least 80 new members of the House of Representatives and at least six new Senators is a large shift and a real opportunity to build new champions for disability policy. A long-term, respectful and sustained relationship with your members of Congress is the best way to get them to do the right thing. Even if you disagree with them, the value of building a relationship with their office cannot be overstated. Now is the moment to start building those relationships.



One-party rule in Washington is over, at least for the next two years. Democrats won the seats needed to take the House, mostly in suburban districts carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016. For the first time, more than 100 women were elected to the House on Tuesday. Notable new voices include the first Native American women elected to Congress (Sharice Davids in Kansas and Deb Haaland in New Mexico), the first Muslim women elected to Congress (Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota), and the youngest woman ever elected to Congress (New York's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29).

Republicans have retained control of the Senate and extended their majority, which means they can keep moving on President Trump's nominations. Senate Republicans could even get the opportunity to confirm a third Trump nominee to the Supreme Court.

Action Steps:

  • Send a note of congratulations to your new member(s). Introduce yourself and identify your experience and interests. Offer to be a resource as they represent people with disabilities,including constituent assistance and policy recommendations.
  • Follow the staff hiring. You may know folks who are members of new teams; reach out and offer information and resources.
  • Mark your calendar to follow-up. Plan to reach out monthly, sharing information about your work and life as they start to learn about how disability is part of all policy areas.


Gubernatorial elections were held this year in in 36 states and three territories, resulting in a dramatic shift of party leadership. Seven states' governorships flipped to Democrats: Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada and Maine. These races - along with control of several state legislatures - play a crucial role in disability policy, particularly as related to Medicaid and education. The change in leadership in Kansas will likely result in active consideration of expanding Medicaid. Maine, which also changed to a Democratic governor, can now implement the Medicaid expansion that voters had approved in the previous election, but the outgoing governor refused to implement.

Action Step:

  • Build relationships with leaders at the state level. See AUCD's new State Policy Tool for suggestions.


Disability-Related Ballot Measures

  • Voters in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah voted to expand Medicaid within their borders.
  • Montana voters did not support an effort to continue their Medicaid expansion with funding from a tobacco tax. 
  • California voters opted to support a Children's Hospital Bond Initiative.
  • California voters defeated a measure that would have limited profits for dialysis clinics.
  • Massachusetts voters declined to pass nurse-patient assignment limits.
  • Nevada voters supported a measure to require the state legislature to exempt from sales and use tax durable medical equipment, oxygen delivery equipment, and mobility enhancing equipment prescribed for human use by a licensed health care provider.
  • Arkansas and Missouri both voted to increase the minimum wage, which will give raises to a combined total of 900,000 workers in the two states.


Congressional Leadership
The campaigns for party leadership positions are well under way. The party leadership in each house has great power in deciding which bills are heard and in setting the chamber's overall agenda. Senate Republicans plan to vote on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 14, to select leaders for the 116th Congress.

House leadership is likely to be the most volatile in both parties. Several Democratic candidates pledged not to support Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California to be Speaker of the House, though not all won their races.

Additionally, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA-2) suggested last week in a "Dear Colleague" letter, first reported by Politico, that the CBC would push for one of its members to be Speaker or Majority Leader. Nancy Pelosi has been clear she wants to retake the Speaker's gavel, and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD-5), a long-time disability champion and the current Minority Whip, made it clear that he's planning to stay in the No. 2 position.

With Speaker Ryan's retirement, House Republicans will definitely elect a new leader. Current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-CA-23) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH-4), co-founder of the Freedom Caucus, are officially campaigning for the top Republican spot in the House.

House Committee Chairs

Appropriations: Nita M. Lowey (D-NY-17) is slated to become the first chairwoman in the history of the powerful spending panel. Lowey has said her chairmanship would result in increased spending on domestic priorities.

Education and the Workforce: Robert C. Scott (D-VA-3) is expected to take the gavel on the panel. It could take up measures to ensure that Trump Administration regulatory changes don't harm worker safety. His leadership will guide House reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Oversight and Government Reform: Under the likely chairmanship of Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD-7), the committee will work to hold drug makers accountable. In a statement to Kaiser, Cummings said Democrats would conduct "credible, responsible oversight" of the Trump Administration, adding: "For health care, that means investigating skyrocketing prescription drug prices, actions that would threaten protections for people with pre-existing health conditions, and efforts to undermine the Medicaid program."

Ways and Means: Richard Neal (D-MA-1); Ways and Means oversees Medicare and influences health policy through its jurisdiction over taxes.

Energy and Commerce: Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ-6) will have the broadest health portfolio in the House, which includes Medicaid, public health, insurance and drug safety. Democrats on the committee will likely take on issues like health insurance coverage, prescription drug prices and increased oversight of the EPA's deregulatory efforts.

Senate Committee Chairs

Appropriations: Richard Shelby (R-AL) is expected to return to the chairman's seat and he hopes to build on the bipartisanship fostered with ranking Democrat Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont during the FY 2019 process.

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions: Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is expected to be chairman again. On the health care front, the panel may focus on reducing the cost of prescription drugs. On education, Alexander has signaled updating the Higher Education Act as a priority.

Lame Duck Session

Lawmakers will return to the Capitol on Tuesday for the first time in more than a month. There is still work to be done in the final weeks of the 115th Congress, and Republican leaders may try to push policy through before they lose control of the House in January.


While the Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education budgets have been passed, lawmakers and the administration face a December 7th funding deadline to pass the seven remaining FY 2019 spending bills, and the chances of another government shutdown are significant. While the President is seeking funding for the border wall, Democratic leaders in the House remain entrenched in their opposition. 

Cabinet Appointments

Strengthened Republican control of the Senate will make it easier for President Trump to get approval of new nominees to replace officials. As expected, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has already resigned at the president's direction. Others to watch include Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Farm Bill

Differences between the House and Senate-passed versions will likely be resolved before the end of the year. This could include work requirements for the SNAP program in the House version.

Disability Priorities

The Money Follows the Person (MFP) program, which gives people who need Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) more choice about where they live and receive care and also increases the capacity of state LTSS systems to serve people in community settings, expired September 30, 2016, and must be reauthorized in the lame duck to ensure states can continue their MFP programs.

Autism CARES will expire September 30, 2019, without reauthorization. The Lame Duck is a critical time to make sure it is high on returning members' to do list.

116th Congress

The divided Congress will likely slow down legislative work even more. With House control, Democrats gain the ability to block much of President Donald Trump's agenda. Significant ACA and Medicaid cuts are likely off the table. Given that many House Republicans campaigned in 2018 on promises to preserve the ACA's protections for people with pre-existing conditions, it is particularly unlikely to be threatened in this Congress. The Democratic House is also likely to focus on some of the actions the current administration has taken that have had a destabilizing effect on insurance markets in some states.


Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

Ivanova Smith is here to talk to Liz about Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) programs, which are funded through the Autism CARES Act. The act is up for renewal by Congress and needs to be reauthorized by September 30, 2019, in order to continue to provide funding for programs like LEND.

Read more about:

• LENDs at https://bit.ly/2LjuihA
• LEND funding at https://bit.ly/2SVtqju



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

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