AUCD Legislative News InBrief

July 23, 2007


The House of Representatives approved the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2008 on a 276-140 margin.  The vote was very close, but short of demonstrating a two-thirds majority of those present and voting to override a likely Presidential veto (see AUCD's July 13 action alert (  However, members are feeling pressure from their constituencies.  Several Republican members who previously signed a letter stating they would support a Presidential veto voted for the bill.  Thank you to all who took action to gain support.  Continued action will be needed as the appropriations process continues.           


The $607 billion bill contains about $150 billion in discretionary spending for the departments of Labor, HHS, and Education.  During the floor debate, Rep. Ferguson (R-NJ) was successful in his efforts to pass an amendment providing $10 million for the Lifespan Respite Care Act.  The House bill also provides a small $1,000 increase for the University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and significant increases for the MCH Block Grant and autism activities.  For more information about the House and Senate bills funding levels for programs important to individuals with disabilities, see the July 6 In Brief.


The Senate Appropriations Committee on June 21 approved its version of the Labor-HHS-Education funding bill for floor action.  No date has been set for debate in the Senate.  Scheduling floor time could prove difficult.  None of the FY 2008 funding bills has yet been scheduled in the Senate for floor votes, though the Democratic leadership hopes to pass at least a couple before leaving for the August recess.


It seems likely that the Senate will not pass even a majority of the appropriations bills by the October 1 start of the new fiscal year, leaving Democrats to deal with the annual appropriations through an omnibus spending bill.  In view of Bush's veto threats, that package could contain other bills and provisions the President wants passed and would find difficult to veto.



The Senate Finance Committee approved a bill last week to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by a vote of 17-4.  The four Republican Senators voting against the bill were Lott (R-MS), Kyl (R-AZ), Bunning (R-KY), and Ensign (R-NV).  The bill would provide a $35 million increase over 5 years financed by a 61-cent increase in tobacco tax.  This amount would provide continued coverage to the 6.6 million low-income children currently served through SCHIP and expand coverage to approximately 3.2 additional uninsured children, reducing the number of uninsured children in America by a third.  The bill also proposes to phase out the use of SCHIP funds for coverage of childless adults over two years.  The White House issued a veto threat even before the bill was approved by Committee. The Administration claims that raising eligibility to up to 300% of poverty would expand coverage to middle-class families and "crowd out" private coverage.  The Administration also objects to paying for SCHIP though a tobacco tax increase.  Several Republicans, including Senator Hatch, spoke out against a Presidential veto.  However, the debate will heat up considerably as the House moves on its reauthorization bill, which is expected to be a much larger package that could also include Medicare payment fixes for physicians.  The House bill could be marked up as early as next week, but will likely see action following the August recess.                                    


Mental Health Parity

Last week the House Education and Labor Committee overwhelmingly approved a mental health parity bill (H.R. 1424) by a vote of 33-9.  Representative Kline (R-MN) offered a substitute amendment that would have replaced the House bill with the Senate version of the bill (S. 558).  However, this move was rejected mostly on a party-line vote.  The House and Senate bills are similar in their basic premise of making mental health benefits equivalent to other medical benefits with regard to deductibles, co-pays, annual and lifetime limits, and other financial requirements.  A sticking point concerns the pre-emption of state parity laws.  At least 35 states have mental health parity laws, some more far-reaching than the proposals at the federal level.  In general, the House bill would not pre-empt states that have stricter parity provisions.  Some House members feel the Senate version does not go far enough.  However, the bill by Senators Kennedy (D-MA) and Domenici (R-NM) is the product of many years of negotiation and there may not be enough support to go beyond this in the current political climate.  AUCD has signed on to letters in support of both versions of the bills in hopes of seeing movement on mental health parity this Congress. See also AUCD's action alert:


ADA Restoration

Representatives Hoyer (D-MD) and Sensenbrenner (R-WI) are expected to reintroduce the ADA Restoration Act this Thursday, July 26 marking the 17th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Despite the ADA's intent to create a level playing field in the workplace, the full promise of the law has never been fulfilled. In recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has slowly chipped away at the broad protections of the ADA and created a new set of barriers to employment for people with disabilities.  Court rulings have created a Catch-22 allowing employers to say a person is "too disabled" to do the job but "not disabled enough" to be protected by the law.  The ADA Restoration Act would help strengthen protections that were intended by Congress by modifying language to prohibit discrimination "on the basis of disability."  A Dear Colleague letter is circulating in the House asking Representatives to become an original co-sponsor.  AUCD has created Action Alert to contact Representatives:


Down syndrome Awareness bill

Senators Brownback (R-KS) and Kennedy (D-MA) reintroduced the Pre-natally and Post-natally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act (S. 1810) last week.  The bill would require that families who receive a diagnosis of Down syndrome or any other condition, pre-natally or up until a year after birth, be given up-to-date information about the nature of the condition and connection with support services and networks that could offer assistance.  The bill would develop a national clearinghouse on information for parents of children with disabilities, support local peer-support programs, and create a national registry of families willing to adopt children with disabilities.  


Higher Education Act

The Senate will consider Higher Education Act reauthorization (S. 1642) bill this week.  The bill the HELP Committee marked up in late June contained many positive provisions for teacher preparation and postsecondary opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities. 


Postsecondary Education

Cornell University will host a forum and webinar on policy recommendations for employment and higher education for students with disabilities on July 27.  Presenters will include: Jane West (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education), Robert Weathers (MATHEMATICA Policy Research, Inc), George Jesien (AUCD), Arisa Nakamori and Stacey Millbern (Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation/AAPD Congressional Interns).  You can register online at:  Please indicate in the comments section that you wish to join the webinar versus attend in person.