On February 14, the Senate confirmed Attorney General William Barr with a vote of 54-45. The Attorney General is a cabinet level position in charge of the Department of Justice, which is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Last week, House and Senate conferees released a bipartisan Conference Report on the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (H.R. 2; also known as the “Farm Bill”), to reauthorize U.S. farm policies and programs as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Following the release of the conference report, the bill was passed in the Senate by a vote of 87-13 and in the House by a vote of 369-47. In a statement, The Arc’s Senior Executive Officer of Public Policy, Marty Ford, noted, “We are pleased that the version of the bill that was passed rejects cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, which more than 11 million people with disabilities across the United States rely on to help them eat.” Read The Arc’s full statement.
Last week, the House both passed the Improving Medicaid Programs and Opportunities for Eligible Beneficiaries (IMPROVE) Act (H.R.7217). This bill includes reauthorization of the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program for three months. MFP provides grants to states to transition people from institutions to community-based settings. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this program has helped over 63,000 people transition into the community and has saved Medicare and Medicaid almost $1 billion as of 2013. The Arc strongly supports reauthorization of MFP. Additionally, the bill extends Medicaid’s spousal impoverishment protections for Home and Community Based Services beneficiaries for three months. The spousal impoverishment protection allows the spouse of a Medicaid Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) beneficiary to maintain a modest amount of income and resources for food, rent, and medication.
Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that the IMPROVE Act extended MFP for three years and that it had passed both chambers.
On October 6, the Senate approved the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court by a vote of 50 to 48. Read The Arc’s statement on Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment here.
On September 28, the House of Representatives approved a package of three tax bills (H.R. 6760, H.R. 6757, H.R. 6756), collectively referred to as “Tax Reform 2.0” by a vote of 220-191. The centerpiece of the package, H.R. 6760, makes permanent the individual tax cuts from last year’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that are presently set to expire in 2025. The Tax Policy Center estimates that tax revenues would fall by $3.2 trillion over a 10-year period under H.R. 6760, on top of the $1.9 trillion that last year’s tax law is already expected to cost. The Senate is not expected to take up the measure prior to the mid-term elections. The Arc opposes Tax Reform 2.0 as it sharply reduces federal revenue, extends tax cuts that primarily benefit wealthy individuals, and will create greater pressure to cut critical programs for people with disabilities. Read more from CCD here.
Last week, the U.S. Senate passed by a vote of 86 to 11 its version of the “Farm Bill” (Manager’s Amendment to the House version of the Farm Bill, H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018). The bill reauthorizes farm programs and policy as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It is a bipartisan bill that did not include cuts and other provisions that were contained in the House of Representative version of the bill. The next step will be a negotiation between the House and Senate to find a compromise between the two approaches. More than 11 million people with disabilities rely on SNAP to help put food on the table. For more information about The Arc’s position see our statement.
On June 21, the House of Representatives passed by a vote of 213-211 the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R.2, also known as the “Farm Bill”). The bill reauthorizes farm programs and policy as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). If enacted, the House bill would make major cuts to basic food assistance under SNAP. The Arc has strongly opposed the House bill. In contrast, the Senate Agriculture Committee recently marked up its own bipartisan proposal to reauthorize the Farm Bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (S.3042), which protects SNAP. Read The Arc’s statement on passage of the House Farm Bill.
On June 19, the House of Representatives passed H.R.6042 by voice vote. This bill delays implementation of the Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) requirements of the 21st Century Cures Act by one year, until January 2020. The bill also expresses the sense of Congress that CMS should hold at least one public meeting and solicit ongoing stakeholder input on its recently-issued guidance. Learn more about this newly-passed bill here.
The Senate passed S. 2614, Kevin and Avonte’s Law, by unanimous consent on July 14. This bill, sponsored by Senators Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) and Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), would provide grant funds to state and local law enforcement agencies and nonprofit organizations for education, training, and technology to help prevent and reduce the harm from wandering (or “elopement”). The Arc supports Kevin and Avonte’s Law and encourages our members to thank their Senators and reach out to their Representative about the House bill, H.R. 4919, during the long summer recess. Click here for more information.
On December 3, the House of Representatives passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (H.R. 647) as a free-standing bill by a vote of 404 to 17 (with 13 Members not voting). On the same day, the House also passed the ABLE Act as Division B of H.R. 5771, commonly referred to as the “tax extenders” package (Division A, the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, provides for tax extenders). A vote in the Senate on H.R. 5771, inclusive of the ABLE Act, is expected this week.
The ABLE Act aims to change the tax code to allow for tax advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities for certain expenses, like education, housing, and transportation. Similar to existing “Section 529” education savings accounts, ABLE accounts would let individuals and families save for disability-related expenses to supplement, but not replace, benefits provided through Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, the beneficiary’s employment, and other sources. If properly managed, funds in the ABLE accounts would not jeopardize eligibility for critical federal benefits. With a full understanding of its features, individuals and families could use the ABLE accounts as another tool in planning for the lifetime needs of an individual with long term disabilities. The version of the bill that passed the House includes age limitations and a cap on contributions, added in July by the Committee on Ways and Means to reduce the costs of the bill. If the ABLE Act becomes law, The Arc will issue a fact sheet reflecting the details of the bill as it has changed through the legislative process. Further details must come through the regulatory process.