House Announces New Members and Subcommittee Chairs for Key Committees

House Appropriations Committee Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) has announced Chairs for the Committee’s 12 Subcommittees. Among the changes, Tom Cole (R-OK) will replace Jack Kingston (R-GA) as Chair of the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Subcommittee, Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) will replace Tom Latham (R-IA) as Chair of the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) Subcommittee, and John Culberson (R-TX) will replace Tom Wolf (R-VA) as Chair of the Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee. Chairman Rogers also welcomed new members to the Committee: David Jolly (R-FL), Scott Rigell (R-VA), Evan Jenkins (R-WV), and David Young (R-IA).

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) has also announced chairs for the Committee’s 6 Subcommittees. Joe Pitts (R-PA) will continue to Chair the Health Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over Medicaid, with Brett Guthrie (R-KY) replacing Michael C. Burgess (R-TX) as Vice Chair. Tim Murphy (R-PA) will chair Oversight and Investigations, with David McKinley (R-WV) replacing Michael C. Burgess (R-TX) as Vice Chair.

Senate Holds Hearing on 15th Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Olmstead Decision; Chairman Harkin Introduces the “Community Integration Act”

Last week, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing on “Moving Toward Greater Community Inclusion – Olmstead at 15,” in recognition of the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s June 26, 1999 decision in Olmstead v. L.C. In its decision, the Supreme Court held that the unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities violates their civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Witnesses included Ricardo Thornton and Donna Thornton, two self-advocates from Washington, DC who have a long history of working closely with The Arc. The Thorntons shared their experience of living at DC’s former public institution for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities – and subsequently leaving the institution, getting married, and raising a family together. Other witnesses included Emmanuel Smith, PABSS (Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security) Advocate, Disability Rights Iowa, Des Moines, IA; Norma Robertson-Dabrowski, Director of Nursing Home Transitions, Liberty Resources, Philadelphia, PA; Gail Godwin, Executive Director, Shared Support Maryland, Baltimore, MD; and Dr. Troy Justesen, Director of Public Policy, Utah Developmental Disabilities Council, Orangeville, UT. Visit the Committee web site to view video of the hearing and written testimony.

At the hearing, Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced his introduction of the Community Integration Act (S. 2515), to ensure “people with disabilities can choose to live in the community and receive the same supports and services they would receive in institutional settings.” As summarized in Chairman Harkin’s announcement, the Act would:

  • Eliminate the Nursing Home Bias in Medicaid by clearly allowing the provision of similar care or services in home- and community-based settings.
  • Prohibit states from making anyone ineligible for home- and community-based services based on a particular disability.
  • Require states that have found an individual to be eligible for nursing or institutional care to similarly find those same individuals to be eligible for care in home- and community-based settings.
  • Set clear requirements for states regarding the provision of services in home- and community-based settings.
  • Require annual reporting by states about the number of individuals with disabilities in institutional settings and the number that have been transitioned to home- and community-based settings.

Senate Finance Committee Approves Nominees to the Social Security Advisory Board

Last week the Senate Committee on Finance approved three nominees to the Social Security Advisory Board (SSAB): Doctors Henry Aaron, Lanhee Chen, and Alan Cohen. Dr. Aaron was approved by a 13-11 vote and Doctors Chen and Cohen were approved unanimously. The SSAB is an independent, bipartisan board created by Congress and appointed by the President and the Congress to advise the President, the Congress, and the Commissioner of Social Security on matters related to the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income programs. A vote by the full Senate has not yet been scheduled.

House Committee Scheduled to Mark up Tax Extenders Bills

Tomorrow, the House Way & Means Committee is scheduled to debate bills that permanently extend several tax breaks. Two of these tax breaks benefit a small number of multinational corporations and would add $79 billion over 10 years to our deficits. These bills are important to the disability community because tax dollars that are lost (also known as “revenue forgone”) increase our deficits and, consequently, increase pressure to cut critical programs like Medicaid.   Two tax extenders, in particular, included in H.R. 4429 & H.R. 4464 would benefit wealthy, multinational corporations that ship jobs and profits offshore.

Senate leaders announce committee leadership changes and make procedural changes for the 112th Congress

The following changes were announced for committees that are important for disability policy:

  • Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) will take over as the chair of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. This committee oversees Housing and Urban Development (HUD) section 8 and section 811 supportive housing for persons with disabilities programs in addition to mass transit.
  • Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is the new Ranking Member on Budget. This committee is responsible for drafting Congress’ annual budget plan and monitoring action on the budget for the federal government.
  • Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) is the new Ranking Member on Finance. This committee oversees Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income.Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) is the new Ranking Member on Judiciary.  This committee oversees civil rights issues.

The Senate also approved some procedural changes intended to make the chamber function better.  They include:

  • limiting the use of secret “holds” which are used to anonymously block legislation.
  • reducing the number of political appointments requiring Senate confirmation.
  • preventing the reading of legislation if the text has been available for 72 hours, a delaying tactic sometimes used slow action in the Senate.
  • defeating several resolutions to changes the filibuster rules.  (A filibuster is when extended debate or other delay tactics are used by Senators to prevent a vote on a bill.  Currently 60 votes are needed to stop a filibuster.)

House Committee rosters growing

The following list of assignments to House committees that are important for disability policy is based on committee announcements, and is therefore not official. Formal committee assignments will be announced after January 5 when the 112th Congress convenes.

Committee on Education and the Workforce (oversees Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Vocational Rehabilitation, employment, and other programs).  Republicans: Lou Barlett (PA), Judy Biggert (IL), Rob Bishop (UT), Larry Bucshon (IN), Scott DesJarlais (TN), Virginia Foxx (NC), Richard Hanna (NY), Joe Heck (NV), Duncan Hunter (CA), Mike Kelly (PA), Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (CA), John Kline (MN), Kristi Noem (SD), Tom Petri (WI), Todd R. Platts (PA), David P. Roe (TN), Todd Rokita (IN), Glenn Thompson (PA), and Tim Walberg, MI.  Democrats: No announcements to date.

Committee on Energy and Commerce (oversees Medicaid and Development Disabilities (DD) Act programs).  Republicans: Joe L. Barton (TX), Marsha Blackburn (TN), Mary Bono Mack (California), Michael C. Burgess (TX), Lee Terry (NE), Fred Upton (MI), Tim Murphy (PA), Sue Myrick (NC), Joe Pitts (PA), John Shimkus (IL), Cliff Stearns (FL), John Sullivan (OK), Greg Waldem (OR), and Edward Whitfield (KY). Democrats: No announcements to date.

Committee on Financial Services (oversees Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 and Section 811 supportive housing for persons with disabilities programs).  Republicans: Spencer Bachus (AL), Francisco “Quico” Canseco (TX), Robert Dold (IL), Sean P. Duffy (WI), Michael G. Fitzpatrick (PA), Michael Grimm (NY), Nan Hayworth (NY), Bill Huizenga (MI), Randy Hultgren (IL), Robert Hurt (VA), Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO), Steve Pearce (NM), Steve Stivers (OH), and Lynn Westmoreland (GA). Democrats: No announcements to date.

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (oversees mass transit, paratransit, aviation and other transportation programs).  Republicans: Lou Barletta (PA), Larry Bucshon (IN), Chip Cravaack (MN), Rick Crawford (AR), Jeff Denham (CA), Blake Farenthold (TX), Stephen Fincher (TN), Bob Gibbs (OH), Bob Guinta (NH), Richard Hanna (NY), Andy Harris (MD), Jaime Herrera (WA), Randy Hultgren (IL), Jeff Landry (LA), James Lankford (OK), Billy Long (MO), John L. Mica (FL), Tom Reed (NY), Jim Renacci (OH), Tim Scott (SC), and Daniel Webster (FL). Democrats: Nick J. Rahall (WV).

Committee on Ways and Means (oversees Social Security, SSI, and Medicare). Republicans: Dave Camp (MI).  Democrats: Sander M. Levin (MI).

Republican leaders cutting size of House Committees and assigning newcomers to important committees for disability policy

In an effort to cut costs, the incoming Republican leaders in the House announced that they will scale back the size of the Ways and Means Committee (which oversees Social Security, SSI, Medicare, and social services programs) from 41 seats to 37 and the Appropriations Committee from 60 seats to 50. Incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) also stated that House Committees and Members’ office budgets would be cut by 5%. Reductions in the size of House Committees will be felt most acutely by Democratic law makers who are already going to have to give up important committee assignments. In addition, two freshmen Republicans – Diane Black of Tennessee and Rick Berg of North Dakota – are being assigned to the Ways and Means Committee. Ten other freshmen are being recommended by the Republican Steering Committee for assignments to the House Financial Services Committee (which oversees Section 8 and Section 811 housing program for persons with disabilities) and six for the Energy and Commerce Committee (which oversees Medicaid and Developmental Disabilities (DD) Act programs).