On November 14, Senate Republicans and Democrats, and House Republicans held their leadership elections for the 116th Congress, which will begin in January 2019. Senate Republicans re-elected Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as Majority Leader and elected Senators John Thune (R-SD) and John Barasso (R-WY) as Majority Whip and Conference Chairman, respectively. Senate Democrats re-elected Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as Minority Leader, Duck Durbin (D-IL) as Minority Whip, and Patty Murray (D-WA) as Assistant Minority Leader. The House Republican Conference elected Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as Minority Leader, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) as Minority Whip, and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) as Conference Chairwoman. House Democrats will hold leadership elections in December.
In the November 6 general mid-term elections, Democrats won at least 232 seats in the House of Representatives, securing a majority. Republicans won at least 198 seats and six races have not yet been called. Republicans will remain in the majority in the Senate with at least 52 seats, while Democrats will have at least 47. The Mississippi Senate result will be determined in a November 27 runoff election.
Julie Hocker became the new Commissioner of the Administration on Disabilities (AoD) within the Administration on Community Living (ACL) on October 1. Ms. Hocker joins ACL from the Charles Koch Foundation, where she served as a senior manager since 2016. In that role, she led several key initiatives to improve the foundation’s operations, including development of an integrated technology and data solution for fundraising, grantmaking and expenditures; redesigning process to improve investment tracking and enable better analysis of effectiveness; and creation and implementation of risk-management processes. Read more here.
Last week, the White House announced a proposal to make major changes to the structure of government agencies. The most prominent change proposed is the merger of the Departments of Education and Labor. Additionally, the proposal moves non-commodity nutrition assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which would be renamed the Department of Health and Public Welfare. If legislation is introduced to make these changes, The Arc will assess the impact on programs critical to people with disabilities.
We want to hear from you about the change-makers in the policy arena! The Arc’s Catalyst Awards were created to recognize individuals, businesses, and other organizations that are catalysts for achievement in the lives of people with I/DD. Will you help us recognize the next advocacy powerhouse? In 2015 during the inaugural awards, the Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (or ABLE) was awarded Public Policy Victory of the Year. In 2016, Patti Saylor won Community Advocate of the Year for her tireless and fearless advocacy at both state and federal levels of government after the death of her son, Ethan. In 2017, officials from both New York and Indiana wonPublic Policy Victory of the Year for their work increasing salaries for direct support professionals (DSPs).
This year’s categories include: Self-Advocate of the Year, Community Advocate of the Year, Local Government Advocate of the Year, State Government Advocate of the Year, Federal Government Advocate of the Year, Public Policy Victory of the Year (State or National), and Legal Advocate of the Year. Know someone who deserves to be recognized? Nominate them today! Deadline: June 8, 2018.
Nearly 1,000 disability advocates from across the country are in Washington, DC this week to advance our grassroots movement, meet with their Members of Congress, and educate them on the needs of people with disabilities. Advocates will be sharing their messages on civil rights and community living, education, federal funding, Medicaid and health care, and Social Security and SSI with their Members of Congress on April 25. Learn more at disabilitypolicyseminar.org.
Registration for the premier policy event of the year is officially open! Join other advocates and professionals from all over the country to get up-to-date on the latest policy issues and legislation. It is an excellent opportunity to advance our grassroots movement, meet with your Members of Congress, and educate them on the needs of people with disabilities. 2017 was a tumultuous year in Washington for disability rights. Congress repeatedly attempted to cut and cap Medicaid and repeal the Affordable Care Act, but was met with resistance from the disability community at every turn. We won those battles together, thanks to your advocacy, energy, and persistence! But the fight isn’t over. We need you in Washington, DC to advocate for the programs that people with disabilities rely on to make a life in community possible. The Disability Policy Seminar is your chance to make an impact! Register today at disabilitypolicyseminar.org.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently announced new committee assignments for the second session of the 115th Congress. Senate Democrats gained a seat as a result of Alabama’s special election, bringing the partisan balance to 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats and Independents. As a result, Senate Democrats have additional seats on committees, giving them a one-vote margin on all committees except the Joint Economic Committee. Newly-elected Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) will serve on the Committees on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (Banking); Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP); Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC); and Aging. Newly-appointed Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) will serve on the Committees on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Energy and Natural Resources; HELP; and Indian Affairs. Other new assignments on key committees include Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) on the Finance Committee, and Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) on the Judiciary Committee.
Key Committees with new members that have jurisdiction over The Arc’s priority areas include Finance, HELP, and Judiciary. The Finance Committee has jurisdiction over tax laws, Social Security and SSI, Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and many other health and human services programs. The HELP Committee has jurisdiction over education policy, employment policy, medical research, public health, the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, and parts of the ACA. The Judiciary committee has jurisdiction over civil rights laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Marty Ford, The Arc’s Senior Executive Officer for Public Policy, received the “Policy Award” from the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) in honor of her advocacy for people with I/DD throughout her career. The award will be given at AAIDD’s convention in June. Learn more about AAIDD’s award recipients here.
The Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation is currently accepting applications for its 2018 Public Policy Fellowship Program. Each year the Foundation brings professionals, family members, and persons experiencing disability to Washington, D.C. for a one-year, full-time, intensive immersion experience. Throughout their time in The District, fellows actively participate in public policy development in the offices of a Member of Congress, Congressional committee, or federal agency. This experience is a unique chance to understand the intersection of public policy, disability advocacy, and the political process. Please see the full announcement for more details. Applications will be accepted until December 15.