Legislative News InBrief

November 27, 2006

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

Congressional Schedule
Congress remains adjourned for the Thanksgiving holiday but will return the week of Dec. 4. Congressional leaders now officially plan to move forward with another continuing resolution (CR) to keep federal programs running that do not have appropriations bills enacted. House leaders plan to adjourn for the year on December 8 with the Senate likely to adjourn soon thereafter. Items left on the short agenda for December are the confirmation of Robert Gates as Defense Secretary, a package of expiring tax breaks and a bill that allows the US to export nuclear technology to India. With this short time frame it is less likely but not impossible for Congress to pass other non-controversial bills, such as the Lifespan Respite Care Act, by unanimous consent and suspension of the rules.

Congress is expected to pass a third CR when they return the week of Dec. 4. The CR is expected to continue funding programs through February at the lowest of the House-passed, Senate-passed or previous year's level, with some possible exceptions. This complicates the agenda of the Democrats, who take control of the majority in the House and Senate in January. Leaders failed to reach agreement on the appropriations bills partly because several fiscally conservative members blocked movement insisting that an omnibus bill would lead to too many earmarks and more spending. Another hurdle to overcome is the problem that there is not enough money under the existing discretionary caps to fund programs within the Departments of Labor, Health, and Human Services and Education Departments even the previous year's level. It is still unclear how this issue will be resolved by the new Congress.

110th Congress Priorities
Incoming Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), announced that the House of Representatives will open the first session of the 110th Congress on January 4 and will remain in session for several weeks. Issues she hopes for the newly Democratic House to address in the first "100 hours" include stem cell research, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, cutting interest rates on college loans, increasing the minimum wage, implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 commission, and reinstating the pay-as-you-go budget rules.

Kaiser/ Urban Institute just released a report, entitled Medicaid's Long-Term Care Beneficiaries: An Analysis of Spending Patterns. It contains data about the use of Medicaid spending on long term care and the cost of community based services compared to institutional services. A link to the report can be found on AUCD's Medicaid Resource page or directly at http://www.kff.org/medicaid/7576.cfm .

Family Support Summit
AUCD legislative affairs staff will attend a summit on Family Support in Lawrence, Kansas next week. The purpose of the summit is to gather together stakeholders interested in promoting strategies to strengthen family support. Invited attendees include federal and state advocates, self-advocates and family members, as well as representatives from DD Act programs. Participants in a previous summit on family support drafted a statement which calls on state and federal governments to support families in their efforts to furnish care and assistance to their relatives with disabilities; to support the rights of individuals and families to control the services and supports authorized and funded on their behalf; and to call for Medicaid reforms to promote family support and self-determination. Projected outcomes from the summit next week will be strategies to implement these principals.

Disability Policy Seminar
"New Congress, New Opportunities" is the theme for the 2007 Disability Policy Seminar that takes place March 4-6, 2007 here in Washington, DC at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The Disability Policy Seminar is an opportunity for UCEDD, LEND and DDRC directors, staff and trainees to gain intensive knowledge on these federal policies to enhance the work you do in your states and local communities. The seminar is also an opportunity to network with colleagues throughout your field and engage national experts on current and future trends in fiscal policy, employment, healthcare, education, housing, transportation and other important current issues in the lives of people with disabilities. Online registration and more information will be available by the end of this week.