AUCD Legislative News In Brief

July 18, 2011

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  July 18, 2011   |  Vol. XI, Issue 29
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Debt Ceiling
The debt ceiling debate will move to both chambers' floors this week with symbolic votes that stand no chance of passage in the Senate, making it increasingly likely that Congress will move ahead with a backup plan that began to emerge last week.  Congressional Quarterly hill news reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are developing a compromise that could create another bi-cameral panel that would make long-term deficit reduction recommendations.  Its recommendations would receive an up-or-down vote in each chamber this year or next.  The package, which may be unveiled by midweek, will likely include $1-2 trillion in spending cuts, largely targeting discretionary programs.

Cut, Cap, and Balance
The House will consider a bill titled the "Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011" (H.R. 2560) which would cut total spending by $111 billion in FY 2012 by (1) reducing discretionary spending to $1.02 trillion in FY 2012-consistent with the House budget resolution; (2) reducing "non-veterans, non-Medicare, non-Social Security" mandatory spending by $35 billion; and (3) keeping defense spending at the president's requested level.  The cap on federal spending would be on a sliding scale, starting at 22.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product in FY 2012 and getting progressively tighter to 19.1 percent in FY 2021.  The balance requires passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution before raising the nation's debt limit.  The proposal does not address revenue.  An identical bill, S. 1340, has been introduced in the Senate.  The President today issued a veto statement strongly opposing the bill, saying that H.R. 2560 would set unrealistic spending caps that could result in significant cuts to education, research and development, and other programs critical to growing our economy and winning the future.  It could also lead to severe cuts in Medicare and Social Security, which are growing to accommodate the retirement of the baby boomers, and put at risk the retirement security for tens of millions of Americans, the statement says.  AUCD signed onto a coalition letter opposing the bill.

Balanced Budget Amendment
AUCD signed onto a
letter along with a broad spectrum of 247 national groups in opposition to a constitutional balanced budget amendment, a constitutional rule requiring that the government not spend more than its income.  While such a proposal seems reasonable at first, it could have harmful consequences to vital government programs in reality.  The version of the balanced budget amendment that the House Judiciary Committee recently approved (H. J. Res. 1) would impose a severe cap on total federal spending, setting it at 18 percent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product.  Such a cap would require even deeper cuts than those outlined in the House budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 34) introduced by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) early this year.  Achieving that level of cuts would almost certainly require massive reductions in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans' benefits.  The letter calls for a responsible deficit reduction plan embracing both spending cuts and new revenues. 

White House on Medicaid
Advocacy groups continue to work in support of Medicaid programs and to combat cuts proposed during ongoing budget negotiations.  Last week, AUCD staff accompanied two individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to meet with Melody Barnes, the President's Domestic Policy Adviser, and Jeffery Crowley, Senior Advisor on Disability Policy, at the White House to discuss the important role Medicaid plays in the lives of millions of Americans.  The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) sponsored the families.  The families did a wonderful job articulating the real impact Medicaid cuts would have on the lives of real people. 
Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, wrote an article for the White House blog regarding the visits.  The article contains a link to the stories of individuals brought in by CCD, The Arc, AAPD, and Easter Seals.  Video of the interviews of the CCD families will be posted online soon.  AUCD signed onto a two-page ad in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, which highlights the need to retain funding in Medicaid for the nation's most vulnerable older adults and people with disabilities.  View AUCD's press release with a link to the full ad.

Combating Autism Act
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health plans to mark up H.R. 2005, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act, by the end of the week.  The Senate will mark up its bill to reauthorize the law (S. 1094) on August 3.  Both bills would extend the law for three years at current funding levels. 

Employment Hearing
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, chaired by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), held a hearing last Thursday on employment for people with disabilities.  The hearing focused on "lessons from the field: what works for employment of people with disabilities."  Witnesses included Kathy Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor at the Office of Disability Employment Policy; Governor Tom Ridge, Chairman of the National Organization on Disability; Deborah Dagit, Vice President of Merck; and Amelia Wallrich, a law student.  See the
webcast and read the testimony on the committee website.

On Wednesday, the House Education and Workforce Committee approved 23-17 the State and Local Funding Flexibility Act (
H.R. 2445) on a party-line vote.  The bill, the third in a series of education reform bills introduced by House Republicans, would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to allow state and local educational agencies maximum flexibility to use federal funds provided under the law.  During the markup, the bill's opponents expressed concerns that the it would result in a shifting of funds away from disadvantaged schools and students that are most in need.  The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Education Task Force sent a letter expressing concerns that the bill would not improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities.  Democrats on the committee introduced a number of amendments to the bill, but all were defeated on party-line votes. 

Social Security
On Friday, Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, announced 12 additional "compassionate allowances" conditions involving severe heart diseases, bringing the total number of conditions in the expedited disability process to 100.  Compassionate allowances are a way to quickly identify diseases and other medical conditions that, by definition, meet Social Security's standards for disability benefits. These conditions primarily include certain cancers, adult brain disorders, and a number of rare disorders that affect children.  Social Security has held seven public hearings and worked with experts to develop the list of conditions.  The hearings also have helped the agency identify additional ways to improve the disability process for applicants with compassionate allowances conditions.  As a result, beginning in August, Social Security is eliminating this part of the application process for people who have a condition on the list.  For more information on the Compassionate Allowances initiative, please visit

AUCD Fellowship in Disability Policy Leadership
AUCD will continue to accept applications for the Disability Policy Leadership Fellow until
July 30, 2011.  The Fellowship is an opportunity for an advanced network member to live and work in Washington, DC for one year, learn about AUCD, current legislation affecting people with disabilities and their families, and exercise leadership skills.  For more information and to apply, click here.


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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