AUCD Legislative News In Brief

January 7, 2013

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  January 07, 2013   |  Vol. XIII, Issue 1
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The 113th Congress

Last week, the 112th Congress officially adjourned and without any break, the 113th Congress began (see Roll Call interactive map of new members).  The 96 freshmen members received orientation and the House and Senate officially selected their leadership.  House members voted to keep John Boehner (R-OH) as their speaker and the Senate elected Harry Reid (D-NV) to continue leading that chamber. Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rogers (R-WA), a mom of a child with disabilities, advanced to a House leadership position as Republican Conference Chairwoman.

One notable change in committee leadership that impacts disability funding is the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Subcommittee that funds programs within the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and Employment.  Denny Rehberg (R-MT), who gave up his House seat to unsuccessfully run for the Senate, will be replaced by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA).  In a statement upon accepting the chairmanship, Kingston was quoted as saying that he wants to work with Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the ranking Democrat on the committee, to pass a bipartisan funding bill.  He also stated that he would like to dismantle the health reform law and he pointed to the repeal of the CLASS Act (see below) as an example of a bipartisan approach to eliminating the law's most unpopular provisions.

Among the changes in the Administration, AUCD regrets to inform you that on January 3, 2013, Secretary of HHS, Kathleen Sebelius reported that Henry Claypool has decided to step down from his dual roles as Administration for Community Living (ACL) Principal Deputy Administrator and Secretary's Advisor on Disability Policy. Henry's last day at HHS will be Friday, January 11.  According to the official announcement, after a short break, he will continue his disability advocacy in a different role outside of government.

The Senate is now in recess until Monday, Jan. 21 for a joint session of Congress for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Legislative business will resume on Tuesday, Jan. 22. The House is also in recess and will reconvene on Jan. 14.


Budget and Appropriations

Last Monday, on New Year's Day, the House of Representatives approved the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) of 2012 by a 257-167 vote.  This legislation is based on a bipartisan deal struck between Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader McConnell which was approved by an 89-8 vote in the Senate.  The purpose of the unusual holiday work session and the resulting compromise bill was to avert the "fiscal cliff" on January 2, the date that a number of tax increases as well as the automatic spending cuts (sequester) that were set to take place all at once.  Most economists agree that the combination of cuts and tax hikes would send the country into recession.  AUCD emailed a summary of the agreement to the network last Wednesday and helped to develop a statement for the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities indicating that disability leaders are pleased that a deal was made to avoid the cliff but that advocates are concerned about the impact of the next phase of negotiations. The White House also released a summary of the deal and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has provided a more detailed analysis.

Since this legislation primarily focused on taxes and postponing implementation of sequestration for two months (until March 1, 2013), the Congress and Administration will still have to work together to develop a more comprehensive deficit reduction plan that will make the sequester unnecessary.  The Congress will also have to deal with the expiring Continuing Resolution (CR) for annual appropriations bills and the debt ceiling in the same time frame. Over the weekend fiscal conservatives indicated that they will use the threat of default to push for entitlement reform and further spending cuts.

To pay for the delay of the sequester ($12 billion per month), Congress used some revenue from a provision related to Roth IRAs and adjusted the caps or overall amount of funding available for discretionary spending for fiscal years 2013 and 2014.  The caps for non-defense discretionary spending, including programs within the Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies are reduced by $2 billion for fiscal year 2013 and $4 billion for fiscal year 2014.  It is unclear how, or if, this adjustment in caps will impact funding for fiscal year 2013.  AUCD will continue to monitor this closely in the coming weeks and continue to advocate for a balanced approach to deficit reduction.



Section 642 of the American Taxpayer Relief Act repeals the CLASS program, which was enacted as part of the 2010 health care overhaul law (PL 111-148; PL 111-152).   AUCD helped to advocate for the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act to be included in the Affordable Care Act to facilitate access to long-term services and supports based on functional needs. The program was intended to provide enrollees with a cash benefit that could be used to purchase various services and supports, such as home modifications, assistive technology, accessible transportation, respite care, and personal assistance services. Part of the motivation for the CLASS program is that long-term care costs currently account for nearly half of all health care spending, and such costs will become increasingly unaffordable in the future.

On Oct. 14, 2011, the CLASS Act was put on hold by Secretary Sebelius and the Administration because of questions related to the viability and the sustainability of the program.  The CLASS Act is not yet an actual program. Rather, it is a set of parameters that were given to HHS -with the intention of letting lawmakers and other experts from around the country form a long-term services and supports program that would be federally administered, without underwriting. AUCD believes that the Congress took a step backward on an important national policy issue by repealing CLASS.

In a separate section (Sec. 643), the ATRA authorizes the development of a bipartisan commission on long-term care. The law states that the commission shall "develop a plan for the establishment, implementation, and financing of a comprehensive, coordinated, and high-quality system that ensures the availability of long-term services and supports for individuals in need of such services and supports, including elderly individuals, individuals with substantial cognitive or functional limitations, other individuals who require assistance to perform activities of daily living, and individuals desiring to plan for future long-term care needs."  The timelines related to the commission are short. The President and the Congress must appoint 15 members to the Commission within the next 30 days. Recommendations must be developed within 6 months. The makeup of the commission must include people with cognitive or functional disabilities and caregivers. These recommendations must then be considered by the House and Senate.


UN Convention

Despite the setback from December's vote against ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), AUCD continues to work with the U.S. International Council on Disabilities and other disability rights organizations to educate each Senator about the need to ratify the Convention in the 113th Congress.  This past week, AUCD participated in a meeting of the CCD International Task Force to discuss strategy and next steps.  The advocacy community believes this is a crucial time to use the media attention (see "CRPD in the News") on disability issues and let Senators know we will not accept a disregard of these rights.  If your Center or organization has not already done so, please visit AUCD's Action Center to thank your Senators who voted in support of the treaty, urge those that voted "no" to reconsider when the treaty is considered in the new Senate, and introduce this issue to your newly elected Senators.  For a status update on CRPD with new fact sheets and modified talking points, visit  Also, click here to read a blog post about the treaty by Kristina Majewski, AUCD's current Policy Fellow.


AUCD Submits Comments on Essential Health Benefits Proposed Rule

AUCD has submitted comments on a proposed rule related to Essential Health Benefits (EHB) in benchmark plans used by state-based Exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. AUCD has also joined the CCD Health Taskforce in signing onto comments in response to the same rule (see December 21 In Brief). The comments highlight the ideal standards for approval of EHB Benchmark plans and discusses the need to ensure all EHB plans include, at minimum, habilitative services (as well as the need to identify rehabilitative and habilitative services as separate categories), protect against substitution of EHB categories, take into account the health care needs of diverse segments of the population, and strengthen preventive and wellness services, as well as prescription drug benefits.  For more information on the proposed rules, see this brief from Health Reform GPS.


Child Abuse Prevention

On Jan. 2, the Senate passed the "Protect our Kids Act of 2012," H.R. 6655/S. 1984, by unanimous consent. H.R. 6655 has bipartisan support and passed the House by an overwhelming 330-77 majority two weeks ago. The legislation establishes a commission to study data on child fatalities from abuse and neglect, review current prevention methods and best practices, trends in demographic and other risk factors that correlate with child maltreatment, and evaluate the adequacy of current programs in order to recommend a comprehensive strategy to reduce fatalities from child abuse and neglect. Several weeks ago, the bill was thought to be dead for this Congress; however, in cooperation with primary House sponsor Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), House Ways and Means Committee Chair David Camp (R-MI) and subcommittee Chair Erik Paulsen (R-WI) called for a hearing on the bill in mid-December. The bill then moved quickly through the House.  The original Senate sponsors are Kerry (D-MA), Baucus (D-MT), Shaheen (D-NH), Snowe (R-ME), and Collins (R-ME). President Obama signed the bill into law the following day, on January 3.


Health Care Exchanges

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services conditionally approved seven new states to operate state-based exchanges. California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Vermont, and Utah join Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington to operate a state-based exchange. Arkansas and Delaware have been conditionally approved to operate a state partnership exchange. In all, 20 states and DC have been conditionally approved to partially or fully operate an exchange. Remaining states have until February 15, 2013 to apply for a State partnership exchange. For more information on the deadlines, see December 17 In Brief.


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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