AUCD Legislative News InBrief

November 5, 2007

Congressional schedule

Congress faces a packed schedule this week.  It will consider appropriations measures, the farm bill, a housing insurance measure, the Peru free-trade deal and an $81 billion tax package. Democratic leaders are also trying to find a compromise on the SCHIP bill that faces another veto threat.  The House and the Senate will consider the package combining the Labor-HHS and Military Construction-VA spending bills. Congress is scheduled to adjourn for a Thanksgiving recess on November 16th, with plans to return early in December.  With none of the twelve FY 2008 appropriations bills having reached the President for signature, almost inevitably another continuing resolution (CR) will be required to avoid a government shutdown when the current CR expires on November 16th.


On Thursday a conference committee completed working out the differences between the House and Senate bills that fund programs within the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education.  The conference agreement provides a $4.4 increase for the University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities over the FY 07 level to $37.6 million ($1.1 million less than the Senate bill, but $4.4 million over the House bill).  The conference report also contains significant increases for the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) programs, CDC and NIH.  However, the President continues to threaten to veto the bill because the amount of discretionary funding is almost $10 billion more than what he requested in his budget.  In order to make the bill harder to veto, Democratic leaders combined the Labor-H bill with the Military Construction-Veterans funding bill. If the bill is vetoed, the Congress may resort to passing another year-long funding resolution at level-funding.  AUCD is working with a large coalition of health, education, disability and research groups to urge Members of Congress to vote for the conference report and to override a presidential veto.  Fifty four of these organizations, including AUCD, purchased an ad in the Congressional Quarterly urging the Congress to pass and the President to support the L-HHS-ED bill.  An action alert will be emailed to the network soon with next action steps for AUCD members.



Last Thursday the Senate passed a bipartisan children's health bill by a vote of 64-30.  The bill is identical to the House bill that passed the previous week by a voted of 265-142.  The margin in the House is still about 12 votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override a threatened second veto by President Bush.  Rather than send this directly to the President, bill sponsors and Democratic leadership are engaged in negotiations with Republican members opposed to the bill in attempts to make minor changes to pick up needed votes.  Members of the Senate Finance Committee will meet Tuesday with a group of House Republicans to determine whether they can reach agreement.  House and Senate leaders say if negotiators can reach agreement on changes to the bill that would allow another 20 to 30 Republicans to vote for it, they will schedule floor time for it.  If an SCHIP deal cannot be reached, Finance Chairman Baucus (D-MT) said last week that a continuing resolution will be necessary to keep state health programs afloat.  In crafting the CR, lawmakers will have to consider adding to the program's current funding level.  If no new money is put into the program, some states will run out of funds by March, according to the Congressional Research Service.  States are currently accessing FY08 SCHIP funds through a CR that expires Nov. 16.  House Minority Leader Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Whip Blunt (R-MO) remain opposed to the bill and some analysts question whether enough Republicans would "break from leadership" to vote for a bill.  Some of the key Republicans being targeted for negotiations and possibly changing their votes in favor of the SCHIP bill include: Randy Kuhl (R-NY), Thomas Reynolds (NY), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Joseph Knollenberg (R-MI), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Ric Keller (R-FL), Sam Graves (R-MO), and Michele Bachmann (R-MN).



Last week the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing that examined six proposed Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicaid rules.  Several witnesses described the negative impact of recently proposed regulations, including proposed regulations on Medicaid rehabilitative services and school-based administrative and transportation services for Medicaid eligible children receiving IDEA services.  The current SCHIP bill under consideration contains a moratorium on these regulations until January 1, 2010.     


Higher Education Act

Last week Congress passed another extension of programs under the Higher Education Act (HEA) that will continue until March 31, 2008.  The HEA was last reauthorized in 1998 and has been up for reauthorization since 2003.  On July 24, the Senate passed by a unanimous vote of 95-0 its reauthorization bill, the Higher Education Amendments of 2007 (S.1642).  The Senate version contains many positive provisions for individuals with disabilities, including expansion of current demonstration projects on postsecondary education for individuals with disabilities, new demonstration projects for individuals with intellectual disabilities and access to financial aid for students in those programs, and coordinating center for the new projects on intellectual disabilities.  House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Miller (D-CA) and Ranking Member McKeon (R-CA) have indicated that they will likely take up reauthorization of HEA later this month.  AUCD has met with committee staff to support the disability provisions in the Senate bill and provide input into possible additional postsecondary provisions for students with disabilities. 


New Hampshire Disability Presidential Candidate Forum

AUCD co-sponsored (along with 22 other national sponsors) a presidential candidate forum on disability issues entitled the "National Forum on Equality, Opportunity, and Access."  The forum was attended by approximately 600 New Hampshire voters.  It was broadcasted locally on public television and webcasted nationally.  Several University Centers participated in gatherings across the country to view the event.  All Democratic and Republican presidential candidates were invited to participate.  Senators Clinton (D-NY), Biden (D-DE), Dodd (D-CT), former Senator Gravel (D-AK), and Representative Kucinich (D-OH) attended the event in person.  Former Congressman David Bonior represented Senator Edwards (D-NC) and Senator McCain (R-AZ) participated by phone.  The event picked up local and national media attention.  More information about the event, including photos and links to news articles and videos visit, is at the following link:  A transcript and archived webcast of the event will be made available in the near future.   

AUCD Legislative Affairs Committee

The Legislative Affairs Committee will meet at the upcoming Annual Meeting on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 5:30 p.m.  The Committee has also been invited to the COCA meeting at 6:30 to hear a presentation by representatives from SABE. The Committee will also host a briefing for all members on current federal legislative issues.  The briefing is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 12 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. 


2008 Disability Policy Seminar

Save the date!  Planning is underway for the 2008 Disability Policy Seminar.  The event will be Sunday, March 2-4, 2008 in Washington, DC.