AUCD Legislative News In Brief

March 18, 2013

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  March 18, 2013   |  Vol. XIII, Issue 11
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Congressional Schedule

The House and Senate are both in session this week. The House will start the Passover/Easter recess on Friday, and the Senate leaves the next day. Both will be out all next week.


Continuing Resolution

The Senate resumes consideration of the continuing resolution to fund Federal government programs through the rest of fiscal year 2013 (the current fiscal year that began on October 1, 2012). Action was taken last week on only four of 90 proposed amendments to the measure.  However, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) are trying to keep the spending package free of highly controversial measures and will try to come to agreement on the number of amendment that will be allowed so that the CR can be cleared before Congress leaves for a two-week Spring recess on March 22.  The current CR expires March 27. The CR does not end the sequester and it stays at the $984 billion level for discretionary spending that was set in the House-passed version.  The Senate bill also includes an extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).


House and Senate Budget Resolutions

Last week, House and Senate Budget Committee chairs Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced their FY14 budget resolutions with vastly different funding priorities for the nation.   The Senate Budget Committee passed its budget resolution on March 14 on a partisan vote of 12-10.  The House Budget Committee also passed its plan on a party-line vote of 22-17

Chairman Ryan's plan is very similar to the plan he introduced in the last Congress by the same name: "Path to Prosperity."  The House budget would cut spending by $4.6 trillion over ten years ($5.7 trillion if the CBO current policy baseline is used) with the goal of eliminating the deficit.  Like the previous year's plan, the Ryan budget block grants Medicaid, restructures Medicare into a premium support program, and repeals the Affordable Care Act including the new Medicaid expansion.  The House plan also extends the Budget Control Act (BCA) non-defense discretionary caps by two years, while increasing spending for defense discretionary programs. According to the  Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' analysis, 66% of the cuts in the Ryan plan come from programs for people with low or moderate incomes.  The text, summaries and other supporting documents are available on the Committee's website.  The CCD Fiscal Policy Task Force released a press statement strongly opposing the House plan.

The Senate plan, introduced by Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, would replace the cuts from sequestration with a more balanced approach using a one-to-one ratio of spending cuts and revenue increases.  The Senate bill reduces the deficit by $1.85 trillion over ten years through $975 billion in new tax revenue and $975 billion in spending cuts over ten years.  The cuts include $275 billion from health care (mainly Medicare), $240 billion from defense, $142 billion from non-defense spending, and $76 billion from other mandatory programs. The plan also claims $242 billion in savings from reduced interest payments.  The bill also includes $100 billion in stimulus funding targeted to rebuilding the country's infrastructure and job training programs. The text, summary, and other supporting documents are on the Senate Committee's website.

The next step is for the full House and Senate to approve their respective budget resolutions.  Given the significant differences between the House and Senate plans, it is unlikely that the two chambers will be able to come to agreement on a joint budget resolution.  Meanwhile, the President is expected to transmit his budget plan to Congress after the Spring recess. If there is no joint budget adopted by May 15, the 12 Appropriations Committee can begin marking of their annual appropriations bills using the Budget Control Act baseline.


Long Term Care Commission

President Obama announced his appointees to the Commission on Long-Term Care.  The bipartisan Commission has now received all of its appointees and can get to work on ideas to build a workable long-term care system for this country.  Senator Jay Rockefeller wrote the legislative language for the Commission on Long-Term Care, which he succeed in including as part of the fiscal cliff deal from the beginning of the year (see January 7 In Brief).  The creation of a bipartisan commission was an idea that Rockefeller began working on over a year ago as a means to address long-term care, given the Administration's decision not to implement the CLASS Act and Republicans' continued efforts to repeal it.  Rockefeller's original bill language creating the Commission would have required the Commission to make legislative recommendations before revising or replacing the CLASS Act. The White House picks are: Henry Claypool, executive VP of the American Association of People with Disabilities; Julian Harris, the Massachusetts Medicaid director; and Carol Raphael, vice chairwoman of the AARP board of directors. The leaders of the House and Senate have already named their picks (see February 11 and 18 In Brief). The group now has six months to create a plan for a "comprehensive, coordinated and high-quality system" of long term services and supports.



The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Pitts (R-PA), will hold a hearing today entitled "Saving Seniors and our Most Vulnerable Citizens from an Entitlement Crisis."  Witnesses include James Capretta, Ethics and Public Policy Center; Joshua Archambault, Pioneer Institute; and Judy Feder, Georgetown Public Policy Institute (and newly appointed representative of the Long Term Care Commission).  For more background information, written testimony and a link to the live webcast, visit the committee website.


Social Security

The House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing on "The Challenges of Achieving Fair and Consistent Disability Decisions," on Wednesday, March 20. According to the announcement, the hearing will "examine policies that have expanded the role of subjective evaluations in determining whether applicants qualify for benefits and how these policies may result in unexplained variations in decision-making, weakening public confidence in the consistency and fairness of this national program." Last week, the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee held a hearing on the "Financing Challenges Facing the Social Security Disability Insurance Program". The witnesses were Stephen Goss, SSA Chief Actuary, and Joyce Manchester from CBO.  For more information and archives, see the Committee's website. Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin also testified before the House Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee on the Social Security Administration's budget. 

Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa has introduced the Strengthen Social Security Act of 2013. According to a summary released by Harkin's office, the bill would change the benefit formula to improve benefits for low and middle-income beneficiaries, recalculate cost-of-living adjustments to better reflect expenses most often incurred by the elderly (also known as the CPI-E or Consumer Price Index for the Elderly), and shore up the Social Security Trust Fund by increasing the phasing out the current cap on income subject to the payroll tax.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) have introduced related bills to apply Social Security payroll taxes to all income above $250,000, significantly strengthening Social Security's long term finances (Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act, S. 500 and No Loopholes in Social Security Taxes Act, H.R. 1029). S. 500 was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance; H.R. 1029 was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.



The House of Representatives passed the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act (H.R. 803), legislation to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The bill was passed 215-202, largely along party lines. The SKILLS Act consolidates 35 existing federal workforce programs into a single $6 billion Workforce Investment Fund. AUCD opposes the bill because it would reduce access to federally-funded skills training, particularly for those individuals with disabilities. The Senate has not yet introduced a bill to reauthorize WIA.


Policy Seminar

The Disability Policy Seminar (April 15-17) is fast approaching! Early registration has been extended to March 21 and hotel rooms are filling fast. Topics to be discussed at the Seminar include: Medicaid and Community Living, Federal Funding, Social Security, Employment and Education, Health Care, and Asset Development. Wednesday morning features a Breakfast on the Hill with Members of Congress and staff. Check our draft program schedule for more information. AUCD is also hosting a webinar orientation today, March 18 for students, trainees, and early career professionals to get ready for the DPS. AUCD's trainee symposium and reception will be held on Sunday night from 4-7:30pm. Don't forget to schedule your hill visits and visit to learn more about the seminar.

For more policy news, follow Kim and Rachel on Twitter at @kmusheno and @racheljpat

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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