This Committee is extremely important to determining the future of disability-related programs. It will have broad authority to cut federal programs, including all disability-related entitlement (e.g. Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)) and discretionary (e.g. housing, education, employment) programs in one stage of the process created by the recently enacted Budget Control Act. The three major stages of the process are:
1) House and Senate Appropriations Committees work to identify $840 billion in cuts in discretionary programs over 10 years (2012-2021). These cuts must be balanced between security and non-security spending (which could include important disability-related programs like housing, education, employment, and transportation). Entitlement programs (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and SSI) are protected from cuts in the first step.
2) The Joint Committee identifies an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. The Committee can include new or increased revenues, changes and cuts to entitlement programs, and additional caps to discretionary programs at this step. The Committee’s plan must get the support of at least 7 of its Members to be voted on by the full Congress. Congress will then hold an up or down vote, with no amendments allowed, on the spending cuts legislation by December 23rd.
3) If the Committee fails to obtain agreement from at least 7 of its members to cut $1.2 trillion or if Congress fails to enact it, then automatic, across-the-board spending cuts will be triggered for 2013-2021. The amount of these cuts will be the difference between the amount enacted (if any) and $1.2 trillion (for example, if only $1 trillion in cuts are enacted, then there will be across-the-board cuts to achieve the additional $200 billion in cuts). However, any automatic, across-the-board cuts would exempt the low-income entitlement programs, such as the Medicaid and SSI programs. Medicare cuts of 2 percent are allowed but will fall on the providers only. Cuts would take effect in January 2013.
The Arc and other advocates are working to ensure that vital programs that serve people with disabilities and their families are protected and that their concerns are considered in the negotiations this fall throughout all of the Congressional work described above.