Legislative News InBrief

January 23, 2007

Congressional Schedule
Democratic House leaders claimed victory for completing the passage of their "first 100 hours agenda" last week. Several of the priority bills face an uphill battle in the more deliberative Senate, however. An Iraq war resolution and minimum wage legislation will dominate the Senate agenda this week. The House will take up a resolution that would allow delegates and the resident commissioners to vote on bills on the floor. The House is out of session Thursday and Friday due to a planned Republican policy retreat. House and Senate committees also continue to work on bills to give federal funding for stem cell research, raising the minimum wage and to prohibit discrimination based on genetic information.

State of the Union
President Bush is scheduled to deliver the State of the Union Address tonight at 9 p.m. ET where he will outline his foreign and domestic policy agenda for the year. Although the President will address issues related to Iraq and homeland security, it is reported that he is expected to try to revitalize his domestic agenda including issues related to health care (including new plans to cover the uninsured), energy, immigration and education (including No Child Left Behind reauthorization), among other topics. He is also expected to try to reach out to the new Democratic-controlled 110th Congress in order to pass his priorities. Giving the Democratic response to the address will be Senator Jim Webb (D-VA).

The Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing on the budget and economic outlook on Jan. 25. The only witness scheduled is Peter Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office. The House will hold a hearing titled "Why Deficits Matter" on Jan. 23 with GAO Comptroller General David Walker as the main witness.

A vote is scheduled Wednesday on HR 2, a bill that would raise the minimum wage by $2.10 an hour to $7.25 over the next two years. However, passage of the bill has been complicated by an attempt by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) to add an amendment that provides the President with enhanced rescission authority on appropriations bills and another amendment by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), to add $8.3 billion in small business tax incentives. The House passed HR 2 two weeks ago.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, chaired by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), is expected to mark up a bill on Jan. 24 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of genetic information with respect to health insurance and employment. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) (H.R. 493) was introduced in the House last week. President Bush has endorsed the legislation. The CCD Rights Task Force sent a letter to Senate leaders today urging passage of H.R. 493. The letter also points out that as Congress considers protections for individuals who experience discrimination based on genetic information, it must also begin a broader discussion around protecting individuals in the workplace, ensuring that if these individuals are eventually diagnosed with the medical conditions for which they have genetic markers, they, too, will be certain to be protected against discrimination.

The House passed HR 5 on Jan. 17, a bill to cut interest rates in half over a five-year period for undergraduates with subsidized student loans, beginning July 1.

The U.S. Department of Education will be hosting a series of conference calls following the President's State of the Union Address this week to brief education leaders on new policy as it relates to the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, according to a memo sent out by OSERS Secretary Alexa Posny. AUCD will participate.

Disability Policy Seminar
A special panel is being planned at this year's Disability Policy Seminar to discuss legislation addressing autism spectrum disorder, including the Combating Autism Act passed last year and new legislation currently in development. The Disability Policy Seminar, co-sponsored by AUCD along with The Arc, UCP, NACDD, and AAIDD will be held March 4-6. Issues that will be addressed include the Higher Education Act, Rehab Act, DD Act, Family Support, and appropriations for all disability programs. Online registration is available with special rates for trainees, self-advocates, and family members: https://www.aucd.org/meetings/gaseminar.cfm. A preliminary program and agenda are available on the AUCD website (http://www.aucd.org/aucd_events.htm).