AUCD Legislative News In Brief

March 22, 2010

Congressional Schedule
The Senate will debate the health care reconciliation bill this week, hopefully completing work on the bill before both chambers leave for a two-week spring recess next week.

Health Care Reform
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (HR 3590) passed late last night by a vote of 219 to 212, and is now on the way to the President's desk to be signed as early as tomorrow!!! The House also successfully passed the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act (H.R. 4872), the reconciliation or "corrections" bill.  The next and final step is for the Senate to pass the reconciliation bill; debate is expected to start tomorrow.  The Senate will allow 20 hours of debate on the reconciliation bill, which may run through Wednesday and Thursday.  Republicans are expected to submit dozens of points of order, amendments and other impediments to final passage. The Senate will vote on the amendments at the end of the week, possibly running into the weekend.

Links to the summaries and text of the bill are on AUCD's health policy website.  As part of the final push for health reform, AUCD signed on to a letter from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities to the House, urging them to pass HR 3590. See also a summary of the wellness, prevention and public health workforce provisions in the Senate bill.  Please send a letter to your Representative using AUCD's Action Center with a sample, editable letter.

Health Bill and Higher Education
In addition to making health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans, the reconciliation bill makes the single largest investment in federal student aid in U.S. history.  The legislation will help to decrease subsidies for student loan lenders and invest these savings to reinforce the Pell Grant program. According the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the legislation will generate $61 billion in savings over ten years to boost Pell Grant scholarships, make student loan repayment more manageable, strengthen competitive grant programs for community colleges, and strengthen Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions.  Learn more about student aid investments in health care reform on the Education and Labor Committee website.

Reps. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Don Young (R-AK) sent a Dear Colleague letter to Rep. David Obey (D-WI), chair of the Appropriations Committee and Ranking Member Rep. Todd Tiahrt today urging the Committee to support the highest possible funding levels for LEND and UCEDD programs as they prepare the Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill for FY 2011. Thanks to all those who contacted their Members to educate them about the funding needs of the AUCD network.  Fifteen representatives signed the letter: Mike Doyle (D-PA), Eleanor-Holmes Norton (D-DC), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Gregio Sablan (D-MP), Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), David Loebsack (D-IA), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Elija Cummings (D-MD), Robert Scott (D-VA), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Bobby Rush (D-IL).  Please be sure to thank them for signing the letter!

FY 2011 Budget
The budget resolution is scheduled be taken up after the Easter Recess. The process has stalled, in part, because Democrats need the FY 2010 budget resolution's reconciliation instructions to move health reform legislation. Nearly 285 organizations, as well as three former Surgeon Generals and two former acting SGs, have endorsed the Coalition for Health Funding letter urging Congress to authorize $67.1 billion in FY 2011 for discretionary health spending. The letter was faxed to the budget committees and the personal offices of their members.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appeared before the House Committee on Education and Labor Wednesday to discuss the Obama Administration's blueprint for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind. His testimony and the webcast of the hearing can be found on the committee's website. On Thursday, the House Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee held a hearing on how schools can properly address the needs of diverse students under ESEA, focusing specifically on low-income students, minority students, English Language Learners, students with disabilities, Native Americans, and homeless students. The hearing was part of a series of hearings the committee is holding as it works to reauthorize ESEA. AUCD member Jacqui Farmer Kearns, Ed.D., Principal Investigator at the National Alternate Assessment Center in Lexington, KY, testified at the hearing. Her testimony focused on the importance of including all students with disabilities fully and equitably in accountability and assessment systems. She emphasized the need to provide students with disabilities access to the general curriculum at grade level and maintain high expectations for their ability to achieve.

House Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI) introduced the Continuing Extension Act of 2010 (HR 4213) on Tuesday, a bill that would delay a scheduled cut in Medicare physician reimbursement rates through April 30, 2010. The 21 percent cut was scheduled for implementation on April 1. This short-term extension is necessary to avoid the cut, as the House is not expected to act on the Senate-approved tax extenders bill that would delay the cut until October 1.

Disability Policy Seminar
Whatever the outcome of health reform, you need to hear what comes next!  The 2010 Disability Policy Seminar is only 2 ½ weeks away! The Seminar takes place in Washington, DC on April 12-14 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Washington's top policy experts will discuss health reform, budget and appropriations, ESEA reauthorization, employment, transition to post-secondary education, and Medicaid, among other topics. Participants should be making appointments ahead of time for Hill visits all day on April 14.  Registration, hotel, and preliminary program information are all on AUCD's Events website.  The AUCD Legislative Affairs Committee will meet in person during the Seminar on Monday, April 12.  AUCD will also host a special reception for Trainees on Monday night (watch for an announcement coming soon).