AUCD Legislative News In Brief

November 12, 2012

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  November 12, 2012   |  Vol. XII, Issue 44
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Congressional Schedule
Congress is back in Washington beginning tomorrow, Nov. 13 for a "lame duck" session that is likely to continue until Dec. 21. The most important issue to be resolved is how to prevent the scheduled tax cuts and sequestration from pushing the country over the so-called "fiscal cliff" (see below). There is also a chance that the Congress could work on the Department of Defense authorization and "farm bill". It is still unclear whether the lame duck Congress will pass an omnibus bill to close out the fiscal year 2013 appropriations or wait until the new 113th Congress is sworn in. The current continuing resolution expires at the end of March.

Election Results
Tuesday's election resulted in a victory for President Barack Obama. The Democrats retain control of the Senate, increasing the number of Democrats by 2, now 53 - 45. The House of Representatives will continue to be led by a Republican majority, 233 to 194. The good news is that this means that the Affordable Care Act will have little chance of being repealed (although House votes to repeal could still take place) and further, that the law's provisions will continue to be assertively implemented. It also means it will be very difficult for Republican Members in the House to push other current agenda items that are harmful to people with disabilities, including changing Medicaid to a block grant program; making major structural changes to Medicare and Social Security; pushing Education reform bills that dismantle the federal role in Education, and developing a deficit reduction plan that unfairly cuts non-defense discretionary programs that support people with disabilities. It also means that the Congress is still divided and any bill that is not bipartisan will be very difficult to move.

Cornerstone Government Affairs prepared a Comprehensive Analysis of the 2012 Elections. In addition, AUCD has invited Nathan Gonzalez, political writer the Rothenberg Political Report, a non-partisan political publication covering politics to provide an analysis of the results of the election followed by a discussion about what the outcome means specifically for programs important to the AUCD network and the disability community. Registration is open until November 16th.

Fiscal Cliff
During the lame duck session, Congress will have to resolve the fiscal cliff, the term used for the combination of expiring tax cuts and the sequester or automatic spending cuts scheduled to go into effect in January. Most economists agree that this combination of major spending cuts and tax increases (including the reduction in physician reimbursements under Medicare) would lead the country back into a deeper recession. As a co-chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Task Force, AUCD staff has been meeting with staff from Senators on the Budget Committee as well as those that are part of the bipartisan "gang of eight" senators working behind the scenes on a long term deficit reduction plan that would avoid a sequester. In those meetings we have heard consistently that they are working on a "bridge" of "framework" plan. In other words, they will postpone the sequester and tax increases from taking effect with an outline they can all agree on while they continue to work on a more detailed long term deficit reduction plan.

The Disability Treaty
Friday, November 16 is the next "National Call-in and Tweet Day" on the Convention the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This is a chance for individuals and organizations from the disability advocacy community to express their support for the treaty by contacting their Senators directly through social media, email, and phone calls. The U.S. International Council on Disabilities has partnered with AUCD and disability rights organizations to address concerns of each Senator around the treaty's provisions as well as ensure Majority Leader Harry Reid brings the treaty to a full Senate vote post-election, during the lame duck session. We are very close. Currently, 12 Republicans and all the Democratic Senators have voiced their support of the treaty. Yet, the opposition by the Home School Legal Defense Fund is strong due to certain misconceptions about key provisions in the treaty. If you would like to learn more about how you can reach out and continue to educate your Senators on this issue visit AUCD's Action Center.

Rights/Class Action Bill
H.R. 2032, introduced by Representative Frank (D-MA) in May 2011, is a bill that would restrict the ability of protection and advocacy systems to bring class action lawsuits that would enforce the rights of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in institutions. The bill would also make it more difficult for the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce the rights of such individuals. AUCD and most of the disability community opposes this bill and believes it will lead to further discrimination toward individuals with disabilities who are living within institutions and may be exposed to abuse and neglect. This past week, AUCD staff participated on hill visits with key Representatives to provide facts related to this issue. The meetings were also a chance for the disability community to speak to the value of community integration. The bill may be considered by the House Committee on the Judiciary within the next few weeks. Please visit AUCD's Action Center to learn more about this bill and how you can contact your representative on this issue.

Health Reform/Exchanges
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to states on Friday, advising them that they would have more time to develop their "comprehensive, complete Blueprint applications" to build their own insurance marketplaces. According to the letter, if states want to run their own exchanges, they will have until Dec. 14 to submit applications, or blueprints. And if states want to run exchanges in partnership with the federal government, they will have until Feb. 15 to file applications. However, the deadline for a "Declaration Letter for a State-based Exchange is still set for this Friday, November 16. The extension was provided at the request of governors, especially since many states delayed exchange planning until the election outcome was clear. Also on Friday, the Dept. of HHS forwarded two proposed final rules on exchanges to the Office of Management and Budget for review. The National Journal reported today that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had a number of important health rules ready to go.

Social Security Income Program
SSI just celebrated its 40th anniversary. The Huffington Post published an editorial written by Donna Meltzer, chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, on Oct. 30, 2012. The article provides important background information on the program and corrects some of the myths being put forward by some members of Congress. The CCD Social Security Task Force has been meeting with staff of Members of Congress to educate them about how vital this program is for children and adults with disabilities. For more information about SSI, see also a new fact sheet published by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Hill Visits Post Election
AUCD's Annual Meeting will also provide an opportunity for individuals and organizations to attend hill visits immediately following the closing plenary on Wednesday, December 5. The main purpose of the Hill visits is to initiate or to maintain relationships with your Members of Congress so that they understand why it is important to continue funding AUCD network programs. Please plan ahead for the Hill visits - visit AUCD's Conference Agenda for tips on how to schedule and prepare for these meetings. For additional tips about meeting your Members of Congress, see AUCD's Action Center and scroll to "Capitol Hill Basics" or feel free to email Kim Musheno with questions.

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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