AUCD Legislative News In Brief

November 14, 2011

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  November 14, 2011   |  Vol. XI, Issue 45
Subscribe to AUCD InBrief  |  AUCD InBrief Archive  | RSS  |  AUCD InBrief Archive

Congressional Schedule
The Senate will consider the second package of FY 2012 appropriations bills this week, including Energy & Water, Financial Services and State-Foreign-Operations.  The House returns from a weeklong recess to consider aid to unemployed veterans and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution (see below). 

FY 2012 Appropriations
The first package of three federal spending bills will reach the House floor this week.  The bill is expected to carry an extension of the current continuing resolution (CR).  This extension will continue FY 2012 funding beyond the current CR's November 18 expiration into mid-December. The Senate will begin debate on the second series of spending bills today.  The Labor-HHS-ED funding bill, which includes most disability, education and health programs, is likely to be one of the last to be considered.  See
previous issues of In Brief for more background.

FY 2013 Budget
Last week, Democrats on the
Joint Deficit Reduction Committee released a new proposal to cut $1 trillion in spending in exchange for $1 trillion in revenue.  The plan includes almost $400 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts, a $200 billion cut to non-defense discretionary spending (on top of the cuts already established by the Budget Control Act discretionary caps), and an $8 billion cut to the Prevention and Public Health Fund of the Affordable Care Act.  The proposal is not expected to be accepted by the Republicans on the committee because it contains tax increases.  The Committee's Republican members also offered a $1.5 trillion deficit reduction plan.  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, it includes $750 billion in spending cuts and $500 billion in revenue over 10 years. It would raise $300 billion in taxes from the individual tax code and through an overhaul of the corporate tax code. It provides an additional $40 billion in tax revenue from changes to the consumer price index used to calculate federal benefits and income tax brackets.  The Committee has until November 23 to produce a plan that includes at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.  If Congress does not endorse a plan or produce an alternative, automatic across-the-board cuts (sequestration) begin in 2013.  For more analyses and information about the current proposals, see the CBPP website.

Balanced Budget Amendment
The House will vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution for the first time since 1995.  A balanced budget amendment is a constitutional rule requiring that the government not spend more than its income.  The vote was negotiated as part of the debt ceiling deal reached over the summer, the Budget Control Act, which requires both chambers to vote on the amendment before the end of the year.  Some conservatives are disappointed that the vote will not be on a version of the amendment introduced early this year (H J Res 1), which would also set a cap on federal spending as a percentage of the economy and create a new voting requirement for tax increases.  But even the simple amendment has little chance of passing, because it must be supported by two-thirds of Congress and be ratified by the legislatures of at least 38 states.  A balanced budget amendment could have devastating effects on the economy and federal programs, including those that support people with disabilities, because it would require either drastic spending cuts or tax increases and would likely increase the unemployment rate.  AUCD signed onto a large coalition letter developed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities opposing the balanced budget amendment. 

Health Care Reform
The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it will consider a challenge to the Affordable Care Act in its upcoming term.  Likely beginning in March, the high court will hear five-and-a-half hours of argument on several issues: whether the law's requirement that most people purchase health insurance by 2014 (the "individual mandate") is constitutional; whether the rest of the law can stand if the mandate is found unconstitutional; whether the issue can be decided before the law takes effect; and whether Congress is improperly coercing states to expand Medicaid.  The court's decision will likely come in June, just months before the November elections.  The Obama Administration has praised the court for taking up the case, saying it is sure the law is constitutional. 

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing last Tuesday entitled "Beyond NCLB: Views on the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act" to discuss draft legislation to reauthorize ESEA.  The hearing was a roundtable discussion with ten witnesses, including teachers, principals, superintendents and education policy experts.  Katy Neas, Senior Vice President for Governmental Relations at Easter Seals and co-chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Education Task Force testified.

On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) will hold a hearing examining the federal government's role in education research. 

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will mark up legislation (HR 1173) Tuesday to repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program in the Affordable Care Act.  Repeal efforts by the program's opponents were reinforced by the Obama Administration's announcement last month that it was suspending CLASS implementation due to concerns about its long-term sustainability.  CLASS supporters, including aging and disability advocates, have urged the Administration to continue its work to ensure that the CLASS Act can be a viable solution to the nation's growing need for long-term services and supports.  AUCD signed onto a letter prepared by Advance CLASS to the Subcommittee Members opposing repeal of CLASS.  LeadingAge is making a free call-in line available for people to call their Senators and urge them not to repeal CLASS.  The number is 866-898-2642.

Asset Development/ABLE Act
The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act) is expected to be reintroduced on November 15 by Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) in the House and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) in the Senate.  The purpose of the legislation is to encourage and assist individuals with disabilities and families to be able to save their own money so that they can maintain health, independence, and quality of life.  Opening an ABLE account will provide secure funding for disability-related expenses on behalf of designated beneficiaries with disabilities that will supplement benefits provided through private insurance, the Medicaid program, the supplemental security income program, the beneficiary's employment, and other sources.  A similar bill was close to passage in the last Congress. AUCD strongly supports this legislation. 

Down Syndrome
Bills have been introduced in both the Senate and the House that would provide an additional six million to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for increased research into Down Syndrome.  NIH would be required to create six centers of excellence for Down Syndrome research and maintain a research plan.  The bipartisan Senate bills (S 1840 and S 1841) have been introduced by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME).  In the House, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) introduced similar bills (HR 2695 and HR 2696) last summer. 

Annual Meeting and Legislative Update

AUCD's Legislative Affairs staff provided a legislative update to all participants at last week's Annual Meeting and Conference.  A
written report prepared for the Board of Directors and Legislative Affairs Committee is now available on AUCD's website.  The report contains a summary update of current legislative priorities for AUCD.


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:

AUCD | 1100 Wayne Avenue, Suite 1000 | Silver Spring | MD | 20910