House and Senate Vote on “Cut, Cap, and Balance” Bill

The House passed the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill, H.R. 2560, by a vote of 234 to 190 and the Senate rejected it by a vote of 51 to 46. The bill would require cuts of approximately $6 trillion over 10 years, cap federal spending at 18% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and require Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment.  The Arc strongly opposes this legislation as it would lead to massive, unprecedented cuts in entitlement programs (Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security) and discretionary program (e.g., housing, education, employment) that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities rely on to live in the community.

Debt Talks Break Down; House and Senate to Develop Separate Plans

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) declared another breakdown in talks over raising the debt limit. They announced they would work on plans that take markedly different approaches to boosting the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling before August 2 while trying to reduce federal spending. According to press accounts, Speaker Boehner is reportedly working on a plan to boost the debt limit and cut spending in two steps. Majority Leader Reid will seek a single increase in the government’s borrowing authority combined with $2.7 trillion in spending cuts, without reductions to entitlement programs or a tax increase.

Action Critical in the Next Seven Days

As Congress and the Obama Administration continue to work on a deal to raise the nation’s debt limit and cut spending before next Tuesday, we may need you to respond quickly to action alerts, perhaps with very little notice or turn-around time. We do not intend to overload your inbox with messages, but over the next 7 days, it is critical that our voices are heard to protect the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Please use our most recent action alert to contact your members of Congress, and be ready for additional alerts this week.

White House Discussions Intensify but Fail to Produce Agreement

After daily meetings between President Obama and Congressional leadership from both parties, no compromises were reached between those who oppose cutting entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security) and those who oppose tax increases. President Obama gave Congressional negotiators until Saturday morning to come up with a budget plan to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) proposed a contingency plan to allow the President to raise the debt limit in successive steps to avert defaulting on our national debt starting on August 2nd. Under the McConnell plan, the Administration would seek three increases in the debt over the next year and a half. Along with each request for additional borrowing authority, the Obama Administration would submit a set of budget cuts.
On Friday, House Republican leaders shifted course and announced that they would vote on a “cut, cap and balance” bill instead of the vote on the balanced budget amendment bill that had been planned. According to press reports, the “cut, cap and balance” bill will contain spending cuts, spending caps that limit federal spending to 18% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a debt limit increase, and a requirement for passage of a balanced budget amendment before raising the Nation’s debt ceiling.

White House Staff Continue to Meet with People with Disabilities

High ranking White House staff continued to meet last week with individuals with disabilities and their family members to hear how critical the Medicaid program is to their lives. Staff of chapters of The Arc were prominently featured in two visits last week. Linda Guzman, Assistant Director of Operations at The Arc of North Carolina, and her son Javi went to the White House on Tuesday representing the American Association of People with Disabilities, and Carol Meredith, the executive director of The Arc of Arapahoe and Douglas in Colorado, was joined by her husband John and her son Alexander on Wednesday representing the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities. Linda wrote a blog post for The Arc about the experience, and Carol spoke about the difficulty with private insurance not paying for needed health care and the importance of Medicaid-funded services and supports.

House and Senate Expected to Vote on “Cut, Cap, and Balance”

The House is expected to approve the “cut, cap and balance” measure tomorrow and the Senate is all but certain to vote against it later this week. The Arc strongly opposes this bill, which caps federal spending at 18% of GDP and would require Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment, as it would lead to massive, unprecedented cuts in entitlement programs (Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security) and discretionary programs (housing, education, employment and other programs) that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities rely on to live in the community.

President Obama to Begin Debt Ceiling Negotiations

President Obama is scheduled to begin meeting with House and Senate leadership to negotiate an agreement to raise the debt ceiling and reduce the deficit. August 2nd remains the date that the Treasury Secretary forecasted that the federal government would exceed the debt ceiling and begin defaulting on federal commitments. If a long term agreement cannot be reached soon, Congress can try and pass short term increases in the debt ceiling. The Arc continues to advocate that efforts to reduce the deficit do not fall disproportionately on people with disabilities and that Congress take a fair and balanced approach.

House Votes Against “Clean” Debt Ceiling Bill by a Vote of 318 to 97

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has set August 2nd as the deadline for raising the debt ceiling above the current legal limit of $14.3 trillion before the U.S. begins defaulting on its debts. On May 31st, the House of Representatives voted down a bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling that did not include spending cuts. Republicans voted along party lines, sending a clear message that they will continue seeking deep spending cuts and reform of entitlement programs (Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security) as a condition for raising the debt ceiling.

House Expected to Vote Against Measure that Does not Include Spending Cuts

Today, the House is expected to reject a proposal that would increase the nation’s ability to borrow money without also making major cuts in federal spending. If the vote fails as expected, the focus will return to a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders who have been meeting privately with Vice President Biden to come up with a plan to cut spending and allow the debt limit to rise. Both sides say they will easily identify $1 trillion in potential spending cuts before the August 2 deadline to raise the nation’s debt ceiling above $14.3 trillion. While proposed cuts to Medicare have received the greatest amount of public attention in the federal spending debate, future proposals are also expected to include cuts to other entitlement programs (Social Security and Medicaid) as well as the discretionary programs of interest to the disability community, like supportive housing, special education, and supported employment. With the Senate out of session this week, the next round of talks led by Vice President Biden is set for next week.

Some Representatives Signal Massive Spending Cuts Tied to the Vote

On May 16th, the U.S. reached its legal debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion (however, the Treasury Secretary can shift accounts and delay hitting the debt ceiling until August 2nd). The U.S. has never defaulted on its debt and, if this were to happen, would create a catastrophic international economic crisis. No date has yet been set for Congress to vote on the debt ceiling. Some House Members, particularly the freshmen who campaigned strongly against increasing the debt, are signaling that they may vote against it.  Some have stated that they will vote for raising the debt ceiling ONLY IF major cuts in federal spending are included. Block granting and capping Medicaid are expected to be at the top of their lists. The Arc continues to advocate that Medicaid and other critical safety net provisions be protected and that any budget agreement be fair and balanced and include raising revenue.