This week, the House and Senate are in recess for the Thanksgiving holiday and will return on Monday, November 26th, for the lame duck session (which is expected to continue until December 21st). 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" (for more information see last week's In Brief). There is also a chance that Congress could consider the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Last week, AUCD Legislative Affairs staff participated with other stakeholders at the White House to discuss how the budget negotiation impacts people with disabilities. The discussion centered on the urgency of passing a plan to avoid raising taxes on the middle class (those making under $250,000) and to raise revenues to balance the deficit without allowing drastic cuts to programs that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities rely on, such as education, housing, and employment. These cuts are scheduled to take place on January 1, 2013, along with the expiration of a variety of tax provisions. AUCD is looking for stories related to the impact of cuts to Medicaid and the hardships faced if the middle class tax cuts are not continued.
Last Week, disability advocates organized a press conference around the ABLE Act, a bill that would create a new financial planning tool for families that would allow individuals to save funds in new ABLE accounts without impacting their eligibility for means-tested federal programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), one of the lead co-sponsors of the bill, voiced his support for the ABLE Act and his hope that the bill would pass before Congress adjourns. The ABLE Act has broad bipartisan support, with more than 230 House sponsors and 40 in the Senate.
The Disability Treaty (CRPD)
The next step for the treaty is a floor vote by the Full Senate. Last week, various disability organization leaders met with Senator Harry Reid to inform him that we now have the 67 votes needed to ratify. The meeting resulted in Senator Reid making the treaty floor vote a priority during the lame duck session - a victory for the disability community. The latest news is that Senator Roberts (R-KS) who originally expressed his opposition to the treaty has now voiced his support thanks to outreach by constituents and our network members, along with Senators Hutchinson (R-TX), Snowe (R-ME), Collins (R-ME), and Cochran (R-MS). AUCD staff has been actively involved in meeting with Senate staff to educate and gather support for the treaty's ratification. Please visitAUCD's Action Center to continue to contact your Senators and voice support for the treaty.