Legislative News InBrief

September 11, 2006

Kim E. Musheno
Director of Public Policy
[email protected]

Congressional Schedule
Congress is largely preoccupied with the 5th anniversary of 9/11 today. House and Senate members will participate in a remembrance ceremony outside the Capitol tonight. Later in the week the House plans to take up a draft rules change that would identify the authors of earmarks. The Senate will resume debate on the port security bill. House Leaders announced last week that their target date for the last votes before recess is September 29. A lame-duck session is then scheduled to begin in the House on November 13. The Senate is expected to follow a similar schedule.

Labor-HHS Appropriations
AUCD staff participated in a Coalition on Health Funding meeting with Marc Garufi, the new Chief of the Public Health Branch at OMB earlier today. Participants discussed the Administration's views of the state of play for FY 2007 Labor-HHS-Ed Appropriations, views on budget reform measures, as well as information on likely priorities for the FY 2008 budget cycle. Garufi confirmed reports that passage of the FY07 L-HHS-ED appropriations bill would likely be put off until after the November elections in a Lame Duck session and would likely be part of a larger omnibus measure combining several annual appropriations bills into one. He also said that the FY08 President's budget would again be tight and that the Administration would continue to cut programs that are found to be ineffective, duplicative of public programs, or just no longer needed.

Health Agenda in House
Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA), Chairman of the House Health Subcommittee that has jurisdiction over many of the health-related bill that affect people with disabilities, has stated he is determined to pass some health measures even with the time crunch before the end of the 109th legislative session. Congressman Deal hopes to pass health legislation that would 1) foster the adoption of health information technology 2) fund health care for patients with HIV and AIDS and 3) block a scheduled cut to Medicare payments to physicians. AUCD will continue to advocate for the passage of health-related bills that would benefit people with disabilities before the House and Senate finish work before elections season.

Line Item Veto and Sunset Commission
AUCD signed onto a Coalition for Health Funding letter objecting to legislation enhancing the line item veto and creating sunset commissions. The Line item veto legislation was introduced in Congress by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) as S. 2381 and by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as H.R. 4890. The letter will be faxed to all Members of Congress tonight. The legislation would give the President line-item veto authority and create an independent, appointed Sunset Commissions to facilitate the reorganization, including abolishment, of federal programs and agencies. In his FY 2007 budget, the President proposed elimination of 91 programs across the federal government, a number of them health discretionary programs that serve children, people with disabilities, those living in rural areas, provide preventive services to communities and train a broad array of health professionals. Through the regular budget and appropriations process, Congress has chosen to restore funding for many of these health programs. The Coalition stated in its letter that it is concerned about proposals that would allow the President up to one year to bundle targeted programs into one of four veto packages arranged by his choosing. The letter further states that Congress already has access, beyond its own legislative authorities and process, to thorough program reviews provided by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Sunset Commissions would not only be duplicative and wasteful, but would seriously undermine Congressional legislative authority.

Medicaid Commission
AUCD staff attended the Medicaid Commission meeting held in Virginia on September 6 and 7. The meeting was the concluding installment of six meetings focused on "Long-Term Sustainability of the Medicaid Program". Dr. Mark B. McClellan, Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services offered that a consumer-driven model, such as Cash & Counseling Model and Money Follows the Person are vehicles for sustainability. Ray Scheppach, Executive Director, National Governors Association spoke on the concerns of Governors on cost-sharing and implementing Federal Medicaid grants and mandates. Key health policy Hill staff offered their views on sustainability as well. Opinions of majority staff stressed the unsustainable nature of Medicaid while minority staff stressed the importance of preserving Medicaid as our Nation's "safety net". During testimony of Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA), Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, he stated that Congress was likely to make more extensive reforms to Medicaid next year. On a positive note, he also stated his support for finding ways to "incentivize" home and community based services including support for family caregivers.

Americans with Disabilities Act Hearing
The House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution will hold an Oversight Hearing on "The Americans with Disabilities Act: Sixteen Years Later" on Wednesday. While the witness list has not been released by the Committee as of this morning, it is expected that Administration and Congressional witnesses will testify, as well as a panel comprised primarily of disability advocates. There is also expected to be testimony from the business community on the issue of "drive-by" lawsuits.
View the live web cast at: http://judiciary.house.gov/schedule.aspx

Homeland Security Hearing: One Year after Katrina
AUCD staff attended a hearing on the status of our government's preparedness one year after Katrina. FEMA and Homeland Security officials testified before the Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee strategies they are pursuing to address the systemic disparities in preparedness and response that were brought to light by Katrina. The CCD Task Force on Emergency Preparedness submitted questions on addressing the needs of people with developmental disabilities in preparedness, but none were asked. George Foresman, Undersecretary of Homeland Security for preparedness, did mention a partnership between AARP, NOD (National Organization on Disability) and The Arc which was formed after Katrina to address the needs of people with disabilities and the elderly. The CCD Task Force is supporting the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act (S. 3721) sponsored by Sen. Collins (R-ME) that includes a number of provisions that specifically address the needs of people with a wide range of disabilities during emergency preparedness and relief efforts.

Follow Up to the ADD/DHS Emergency Management Conference
AUCD participated in a follow up meeting to the Emergency Management Conference for Individuals with Disabilities and the Elderly. The meeting was co-hosted by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, Department of Homeland Security and HHS Office on Disability- all original sponsors of the conference in July. The AUCD network was well represented at the conference and an informal workgroup was formed by the participants. This workgroup plans to meet during the Special Interest Groups sessions at AUCD's Annual Meeting (www.aucd.org/annual_meeting_2006 ). For more information on the Emergency Management Conference go to: http://www.add-em-conf.com/