AUCD Legislative News In Brief

July 5, 2011

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  July 5, 2011   |  Vol. XI, Issue 27
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Congressional Schedule
The House and Senate are in session this week, after the Senate canceled its scheduled July 4th recess to continue bipartisan negotiations on a federal budget resolution aimed at significantly reducing the deficit over the next decade.

FY 2012 Budget & Appropriations
Lawmakers are still trying to come to agreement on a deal to reduce the deficit and raise the federal debt limit by August 2.  Publicly, both parties are sticking to their positions: Republicans want steep spending cuts without tax increases; Democrats want to balance spending cuts with reduced tax benefits for corporations and the wealthy.  Negotiations continue between President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).  After some Republicans expressed skepticism about the August 2 deadline, the Treasury Department reaffirmed Friday that it expects the nation to default on some of its financial obligations if the limit is not raised by that date.

Earlier this month, the House Judiciary Committee approved a constitutional balanced budget amendment (H. J. Res. 1) and it is expected to go to the House floor soon.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has begun the process to force a Senate vote on the amendment, aiming for the week of July 18.  These proposals include a statutory spending cap on all federal funding, limiting spending to 18 percent of the Gross Domestic Product and requiring a two-thirds vote in Congress to raise revenues.  Enactment of these proposals would likely have dire consequences on the economy and on federal programs upon which individuals with disabilities rely, such as Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, as well as education and Veterans programs.  Several reports by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explain the consequences of a balanced budget amendment.  AUCD signed onto a coalition letter opposing the amendment.

Medicaid continues to be targeted in the ongoing budget negotiations, however, this time it is not only being scrutinized on one side of the aisle.  A recent proposal suggested by the Obama Administration calls for reductions in the federal share of Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) spending.  Presently, matching rates (Federal Medical Assistance Percentages - FMAP) vary across state-federal partner programs within each state.  The Administration's proposal would establish a "blended rate" for each state which would be lower than the previous federal funding dollar amount and thus save the federal government money.  According to a recent
report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, this proposal has two significant weaknesses.  While federal expenditures would decrease, state costs would increase and would likely be shifted to program recipients.  Secondly, there is difficulty in calculating the blended rate of each state in a fair and accurate manner, as the rate would be determined based on assumptions regarding future Medicaid and CHIP enrollment and expenditures.

In an op-ed published on the website of the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), submit that federal and state governments should explore the reduction of Medicaid spending through an increase in the number of people with disabilities that live in community-based settings as opposed to more costly institutional facilities.  They wrote, "Modernizing Medicaid's approach to supporting people with disabilities can save money and bring people a better quality of life.  It would also promote compliance with the ADA and the Olmstead decision.  If Medicaid cuts are not done in a thoughtful manner, however, they will have disastrous consequences and will lead to systemic civil rights violations."

Several leaders of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) met with Jeff Crowley, a senior health official at the White House, to share concerns about Medicaid cuts being included in budget proposals.  CCD is also helping to bring individuals with disabilities and families to meet with White House health policy officials to discuss the potential impact of Medicaid cuts.  Please visit AUCD's Action Center to educate your Members of Congress about the Medicaid program.

Combating Autism Act
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will markup the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (S. 1094) on July 13 (originally scheduled for June 29), the same date as the markup of the bill to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (see below).  On the House side, the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), has scheduled a hearing on H.R. 2005, the companion bill to reauthorize the Combating Autism Act, for July 11.  AUCD members are encouraged to contact their members of Congress to educate them about the importance of reauthorizing this law.  If your members have already cosponsored the bill, please do not forget to thank them!  See links to the
bill text and an action alert on AUCD's website.

Draft legislation to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act is scheduled to be marked up by the Senate HELP Committee on Wednesday, July 13.  A key goal of this reauthorization proposal is to improve, align, and coordinate employment, education, training, and vocational rehabilitation services.  Title V includes amendments to the Rehabilitation Act and vocational rehabilitation programs related to transitioning youth with disabilities and promoting employment first policies.  There is no House companion bill to date.

Health Care Reform
KidsWell, a campaign dedicated to the successful implementation of federal health reform for America's children, launched, a website established to monitor state and national health care reform implementation and opposition across the country.  In addition to state profiles and national developments, the site provides resources and weekly updates, as well as a search feature.


For definitions of terms used in In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms.

For copies of this and previous issues of Legislative News In Brief please visit the Public Policy Page of the AUCD website:

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