AUCD Legislative News In Brief

September 14, 2009

Congressional Schedule

House Majority Leader Hoyer (D-MD) stated recently that the House would be in session every week in October but would not likely be in session the week of Thanksgiving, unless Congress could finish its work for the year by doing so.  He did not mention a target date adjournment. No word from the Senate yet; however, with health care pending and annual appropriations bills still unfinished, it is likely that both Houses of Congress will be here at least until Thanksgiving and possibly beyond.   House and Senate leaders have stated the need for a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government running after the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year while they finish appropriations bills. 

Health Care

Senator Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee today stated that bipartisan talks continue on their health care reform bill and he hopes to have a bill introduced this week and for markup to begin next week.  Last week, Baucus released a broad framework of the bill.  The House continues to work on merging their three bills in preparation for a bill to go to the House floor for a vote but they seem to be waiting for Senate action first.

On September 9 President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress to attempt to refocus the healthcare debate after the August recess.  The President also sought to correct rumors about health care reform legislation and issued a call for bipartisan cooperation and honest debate.  The White House released a three page outline of what the Administration would like to see in a final bill.  Most of the plan appears to be in line with House and Senate proposals, except that it offers medical malpractice reform projects and a provision to offer new, low-cost coverage through a national "high risk" pool to protect people with preexisting conditions. The plan supports a public plan option; however, in the text of his speech he appears open to signing a bill that does not include a public option. The full text of the address and the written plan are available on the AUCD website.

It was announced last week that Sen. Dodd (D-CT) decided not to take over as chair of the HELP Committee as it would require him to leave his post as chair of the Banking Committee.  Sen. Harkin (D-IA) accepted the chairmanship of the HELP Committee which forced him to give up the chairmanship of the Agricultural Committee.  Sen. Harkin has been a key ally of the disability community and has been heading up the Senate workgroup on health care prevention.  Sen. Harkin asked Sen. Dodd to remain as a sort of co-leader for the committee on health reform.

AUCD signed on to a letter to the White House urging the President to leave the health disparities data collection provisions in health reform legislation intact.  The letter was in response to a New York Times article (Sept. 3, 2009) in which it was stated that White House officials said Congress could drop provisions to collect such data.  The letter was prepared by a coalition supporting provisions in the health care reform bill to eliminate health disparities.  AUCD was able to ensure that the letter specifically included disability related health disparities. Over 140 organizations signed on.  A copy of the letter is available on the AUCD website.


While healthcare talks remain the focus off the Senate floor, FY 10 appropriations bills will dominate the floor until that legislation is ready. The Senate is expected to take up three appropriations bills over the next few weeks: the Transportation-HUD, Interior-Environment, and Commerce-Justice-Science spending bills.  House and Senate Democratic leaders acknowledged last week that they will not be able to wrap up the FY 2010 appropriations process before the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year. That means a short-term continuing resolution will likely be needed to fund government programs funded by unfinished bills.  The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (L-HHS-ED) spending bill is among those that will not be completed on time and there is a strong possibility that it will be wrapped up into an omnibus spending bill with other unfinished bills.  The House has completed work on the L-HHS-ED bill.

Abuse and Neglect
AUCD, along with other disability advocates, was invited and met with staff of Sen. Dodd (D-CT) to discuss the development of legislation to limit the use of restraints and seclusion in public and private schools.  Staff summarized Sen. Dodd's outline for such legislation and asked for input.  AUCD provided its recommendations developed by the Legislative Affairs Committee with help from the association's Abuse and Neglect workgroup.  Dodd staff hope to have a bipartisan and bicameral (working with Rep. Miller (D-CA) staff in the House) bill introduced before the end of this session of Congress.

National Institutes of Health Town Hall Meeting

Dr. Francis Collins, M.D., Ph. D. Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) held a town hall meeting for stakeholders on September 8 at NIH.  AUCD was represented along with over 200 other organizations as Dr. Collins outlined his areas of focus for NIH as well as resources that can be of use for health professionals nationwide. Disability research was not specifically mentioned. A webcast of his presentation is available on the NIH website.

Education Town Hall

Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan is hosting a multi media event on Tuesday evening as part of his "Listening and Learning Tour".  A National Town Hall Meeting will be held from 8 to 9pm (EST).   This interactive discussion meeting with parents will be available by phone, email and video.  Participants can learn how to participate by going to

AUCD Policy Fellowship

AUCD is seeking applicants now for the policy fellowship that will begin as soon as possible.  This position is a yearlong opportunity for LEND trainees or mid-level career network members to contribute to the field of disability policy at the national level.  Activities include but are not limited to policy and legislative development, advocacy, program development, technical assistance, and association administration.  A full description and application instructions are located on the AUCD website.  Applications are currently being accepted.  The position will be open until filled.