AUCD Legislative News In Brief

August 1, 2011

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  August 1, 2011   |  Vol. XI, Issue 31
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Congressional Schedule
House and Senate leaders continue to work on a final deal to raise the nation's debt limit by Tuesday.  After voting on the deal later tonight, both houses are expected to recess until after Labor Day.

Budget & Appropriations
After months of negotiations, congressional leaders and President Obama have finally reached a bipartisan deal to raise the nation's debt limit and implement a deficit reduction plan.  The House and Senate are both expected to vote on the deal later today, just hours before the nation is expected to begin to default on some of its financial obligations. 

The "Budget Control Act of 2011" would raise the debt limit in two phases.  Phase one immediately increases the debt limit by $900 billion to avoid a federal default tomorrow, August 2.  Phase two gives the president the authority to raise the debt limit early next year by $1.2-1.5 trillion to cover the nation's financial obligations through the November 2012 elections. 

Fortunately, the bill makes no initial cuts to entitlement programs like Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and Food Stamps.  However, the deal immediately establishes spending caps for discretionary spending from fiscal year 2012 - 2021, including a cap for non-security discretionary spending (which includes non-entitlement health, education and disability programs) of $359 billion in FY 2012.  That amount is $17 billion less than the cap set by the House budget plan introduced by Paul Ryan (R-WI) and nearly $63 billion less than fiscal year 2011 levels.  There are no immediate provisions to increase revenues in the package, but the bill establishes a new bipartisan group that can consider all deficit reduction strategies, including revenue increases and entitlement reforms.  The group of 12 (three Democrats and three Republicans from each chamber) is tasked with finding additional savings over nine years.  Its recommendations will be subject to up-or-down votes in Congress later this year. 

The plan also includes a budget "trigger": if Congress does not enact at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by January 1, 2013, automatic across-the-board cuts would be triggered, with half coming from defense and half from non-defense discretionary and Medicare providers (not Medicare beneficiaries).  Fortunately, Social Security, Medicaid and other vital low-income support programs are exempt from the trigger.  Finally, the deal requires that both the House and Senate vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution between October 1 and the end of the year.  For more information, see the White House fact sheet and the section-by-section summary of the bill.

Combating Autism Act
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has once again postponed its markup of the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (
S. 1094).  The bill will now be considered September 7, coming dangerously close to the law's expiration on September 30.  While there continues to be strong support in Congress to address the needs of individuals and families with autism, there are intense pressures to reduce spending and the number of federal programs.  AUCD continues to educate Members of Congress about the success and cost-effectiveness of this law, as well as the importance of avoiding loss of programmatic gains that have been so successful in getting real services to children on the spectrum.  Without specific Congressional authorization to continue, securing funding for LEND programs will be very difficult in this fiscal environment.  Passage in the Senate will help to spur support in the House where there is reluctance to pass any bill that increases or continues federal spending.  So far, no markup has been scheduled for the House companion bill, H.R. 2005.  Please visit AUCD's Action Center for tools you can use to encourage your members of Congress to support quick movement on these bills before the law expires on September 30.  If one of your Senators is a member of the HELP Committee, it is particularly important that you urge him/her to support passage of S. 1094 when it is considered later next month.


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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