AUCD Legislative News In Brief

May 20, 2013

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  May 20, 2013   |  Vol. XIII, Issue 20
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Congressional Schedule

The House and Senate are both in session this week, the last week before the Memorial Day recess. The Senate is expected to begin debate over a major reauthorization of farm programs, while the Senate Judiciary Committee continues to work through markup of a comprehensive immigration reform bill. AUCD will be sending a recess Action Alert for the recess covering federal funding, Disability Treaty, and the Keeping All Students Safe Act.


House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) submitted spending levels (302(b) allocations) that would be used to develop annual spending bills for FY14. The figures in the allocation report would lead to deep cuts to health and human services.  The Labor, Health and Human Services and Education allocations, for instance, would be reduced from the House request of $150 billion in the current fiscal year to $122 billion in the next fiscal year.  Because the committee is reluctant to further cut NIH, Defense and other Homeland security spending, it expects the HHS budget to absorb the biggest cut. In fact, Defense spending would increase 6% over FY 13.

The House $967 billion discretionary allocation is down from $1.043 trillion in enacted fiscal 2013 appropriations, reduced because of the sequester, which lowered caps for defense and nondefense spending in fiscal 2014. In the Senate, however, Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) plans to act on bills as if the sequester had been repealed for fiscal 2014 and proceed with a $1.058 trillion cap. The House allocation is so low that it's certain that the L-HHS-ED bill will not ever be finalized unless the House and Senate leadership get more serious about budget negotiations with one another and with the President.  If the HHS funding bill was based on these allocations, UCEDD and LEND programs would be cut about 19%! 

AUCD is participating in a town hall meeting with NDD United to discuss next steps in demonstrating just how unworkable sequestration is and that we need Congress and the Administration to work together to find a balanced approach to developing a budget and passing annual funding bills. 

Budget Deficit Projections

Last week the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its updated budget projections for the next ten years. The report projects deficits for FY2013 to be $200 billion lower than previously predicted and the first deficit below $1 trillion in five years. The decline is largely due to higher-than-expected revenues and an increase in payments to the Treasury by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The deficit over the next ten years is expected to be $618 billion less than was previously thought, due to lower projected spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest on the debt.

However, despite promising news of a small short-term decline in the annual deficit, the CBO still projects that debt held by the public will remain high. Debt will decline from 76% in 2014 to slightly below 71% in 2018, but then rise again to reach 74% of GDP in 2023 and continue to rise henceforth.  The graph has been likened to a "Nike swoosh". The swoosh-shaped deficit and debt numbers show that while current austerity policies focus on short-term discretionary spending, little has been done to solve long-term debt problems rooted in health care cost inflation, an aging population, and an inefficient tax code. Budget experts from diverse groups like the Fix the Debt Coalition and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities continue to urge Congress to work together to cancel the sequester and instead enact long-term sensible solutions to stabilize and eventually reduce our debt as a share of GDP.

Health Care

The House voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Thursday for the third time since its enactment. (It is the 37th time the House has voted to repeal or defund at least part of the bill.) Only two Democrats sided with Republicans in the party-line 229-195 vote - Jim Matheson (UT) and Mike McIntyre (NC). All Republicans voted in favor of repeal. Fortunately, the Senate does not plan to vote on the repeal bill and the President issued a veto message. AUCD strongly supports the Affordable Care Act.  For more information about how the ACD impacts people with disabilities, see AUCD's Health HUB Get the Facts section.

Special Education Research

The President's fiscal year 2014 budget proposed to cut funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act's (IDEA) Personnel Preparation program by an additional $2.5 million. This program has already been cut from $90.6 million (FY 2010) to its current $83.7 million (FY 2013).  Any further cuts will exacerbate the existing severe shortage of qualified special educators.  According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly every state reports a shortage of special education teachers and related service personnel.  In fact, 90% of high poverty districts reported difficulty in attracting highly qualified special education teachers.  In response to these cuts, several education organizations have started a campaign to prevent cuts to this program.  AUCD signed on to an open letter urging Congress to reject this proposal and instead restore funding to its FY 2010 level of $90.6 million. To find out more and sign the letter, visit the Council for Exceptional Children's Campaign site.

Assistive Technology

AUCD provided input to and signed on to a Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Technology and Telecommunications Task Force letter to appropriators to request that the House and Senate FY2014 Labor, Health and Human Services (L-HHS-ED) Appropriations Subcommittees provide $37.5 million for the Assistive Technology (AT) Act.  This modest $5 million increase would allow every state and territory to receive at least the minimum grant outlined under the current formula in the AT Act and would help meet the urgent demand for veterans, the growing aging population, and youth with disabilities who have been through secondary and postsecondary education but might need technology to assist them in getting and keeping a job.  It would also help states promote the adoption of commercial, off-the-shelf, multiple-use technology to support people with all types of disabilities.

On a related topic, AUCD has revived its Assistive Technology Special Interest Group for those Centers that run an AT Act program.  If you run an AT program within your Center and did not receive an invitation from Kim Musheno, please email her regarding your interest.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

The U.S. International Council on Disabilities (USICD) and the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) held a community leadership teleconference last week to share information and discuss strategy for successfully ratifying the international disability treaty this year.  Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), a lead advocate for the treaty, joined the call to provide the current status in the Senate and to rally the troops. Sen. Harkin reported that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to hold hearings and mark up the Treaty in June so that it can be ready for a floor vote by July 26, the anniversary of the ADA. Watch for a recess action alert from AUCD this week.  In addition, AUCD's International Civil Rights site contains links to fact sheets developed by USICD, disability and veterans organizations that support the treaty, compelling testimony, and other materials that are helpful in advocacy efforts.

CMS Leadership

The Senate voted 91-7 to confirm Marilyn Tavenner to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees Medicare, Medicaid, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Tavenner has been leading the agency as acting-administrator since December 2011 and is the first Senate-confirmed CMS administrator since 2006. Having a confirmed administrator puts CMS on stronger footing within the federal government and in relations with Congress. 

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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