Capitol Insider

for the week of September 22

Recent Major Events

Budget & Appropriations – Short Term Spending Bill Enacted

On September 18, the Senate voted 78-22 to approve H.J. Res 124, a continuing
resolution (CR), and President Obama signed the measure into law the following day.
This measure will avoid a government shutdown by extending current funding levels
from the start of fiscal year 2015 on October 1, through December 11, 2014.  See
recent disability-related discretionary funding levels here.

Civil Rights – Senator Harkin Calls for Vote on the Convention on the Rights of
Persons with Disabilities

Last week, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) called on his colleagues in the Senate to vote
on the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities (CRPD) treaty.  Senator Harkin called for a unanimous consent vote that
was opposed on the floor, preventing the vote from taking place.

The Arc has been working with numerous other disability advocacy groups and
Senators to garner support for the ratification of this treaty, which will promote, protect,
and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms
by all persons with disabilities. For years, The Arc’s Public Policy team and grassroots
advocates across the country have been working to promote the CRPD and ensure
ratification.  The United States signed the CRPD on July 30, 2009, joining the 141 other
signing nations.  As of June 2012, the Convention had 113 ratifications and 153
signatures.  On May 17, 2012, following almost three years of thorough review, the
Obama Administration submitted its treaty package to the U.S. Senate for its advice
and consent for ratification.

Tax Policy – Senators Commit to Passing ABLE Act

On September 19, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ranking
Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), and Senator Richard Burr
(R-NC) released a joint statement updating the public on the Achieving a Better Life
Experience (S.313 and H.R.647) ABLE Act status.  They indicated that the Senate has
generated momentum and positive progress on passage of the bill.  The four Senators
announced that as a result of bi-partisan collaboration, a policy agreement has been
reached that will be the foundation for passing this legislation and obtaining Presidential
signature in the lame duck Congressional session, which begins November 12, 2014.
Although no plan has been developed yet to pay for the $2.1 billion cost over 10 years,
legislators are optimistic that agreement can be reached.  The ABLE Act legislation, to
allow people with disabilities to open tax-advantaged savings accounts, has been in
development for eight years.

Social Security – Senators Collins and Nelson Introduce Debt Collection
Improvement Act

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) have introduced the Debt
Collection Improvement Act (S. 2896) to limit the amount the federal government can
garnish from monthly federal benefits. In 1998, Congress set this amount at $750 per
month; since then, it has not been raised or adjusted for inflation. As a result, the
federal government can garnish Social Security benefits so long as the beneficiary
is not left with less than $750 per month. A recent report by the Government
Accountability Organization
(GAO) found that 155,000 people had their Social Security
benefits garnished in 2013 because they had defaulted on their student loan payments
. The vast majority – 71 percent – were receiving Social Security disability benefits.
According to the GAO, if the garnishment limit had been indexed to match the rate of
increase in the poverty threshold, in 2013, 68 percent of all borrowers whose Social
Security benefits were garnished for federal student loan debt would have kept their
entire benefit. Earlier this month, the Senate Special Committee on Aging (Chair: Sen.
Nelson; Ranking Member: Sen. Collins) held a hearing on older Americans and the
impact of student loan debt on retirement security. The Debt Collection Improvement
Act would adjust the current $750 garnishment floor for inflation and index it going
forward. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.

Education – IDEA Full Funding Act introduced in Senate

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced S. 2789, the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA) Full Funding Act, on September 10.  This bill would increase
spending over the next decade to bring the federal share of funding for special
education up to 40%, the amount promised when the law was first enacted in 1975.
To date, the federal government has never covered more than 16% of these costs
per year.  The increased funding would be paid for through increased taxes on
individuals earning over $1 million per year.  The House version of the bill,
HR 4136, was introduced in June by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).  Learn more at

Poverty – Senate HELP Committee Holds Hearing on Overcoming Persistent
Barriers to Economic Self-Sufficiency for People with Disabilities

Last week, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
(HELP) held a hearing on “Overcoming Persistent Barriers to Economic Self-
Sufficiency for People with Disabilities.”
In a statement, The Arc’s Marty Ford said:
“Today a legend in the disability community held what is likely his final Senate
Committee hearing on disability issues, advocating for individuals with disabilities
until the very end of his final term in Congress. Senator Harkin has been a longtime
advocate for individuals with disabilities, supporting or spearheading all major
disability legislation in the last 40 years. His final hearing focused on poverty, a huge
problem facing many individuals with disabilities. This hearing, like so many before,
highlighted one of the key issues facing people with disabilities, and challenged
legislators to look for solutions. Senator Harkin is a hero to The Arc and our
advocates across the country, and his legacy will live on. We thank him for his years
of service, and friendship to our community.” Read more on The Arc’s blog.

Rights – Senator Harkin Introduces Bills to Promote Access to Housing,
Transportation, and Exercise and Fitness Services

Last week, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced three bills as part of his “Access
for All” agenda to help people with disabilities achieve economic independence and
reach the middle class. The “Universal Home Design Act” (S. 2889) would seek to
increase the availability of accessible housing for people with disabilities by requiring
certain accessibility features for single family homes and townhouses built or
purchased with federal financial assistance. The bill was referred to the Committee
on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. The “Accessible Transportation for All Act”
(S. 2887) would seek to expand access to accessible taxi services and ban
discrimination based on disability by taxi companies and drivers. The bill was referred
to the Committee on Finance. The “Exercise and Fitness for All Act” (S. 2888) would
encourage exercise and fitness service providers to provide exercise and fitness
equipment that is accessible to people with disabilities. The bill was referred to the
Committee on Finance.


Schedule for Capitol Insider

This will be the last edition of Capitol Insider until Congress reconvenes in November.
While both chambers of Congress are out of session, please check the Capitol Insider
and The Arc’s Action Center for updates.

Marchand Internship – Application for Spring 2015 Session due October 1, 2014

The Paul Marchand Internship Fund will provide $3,000 per semester or summer
session to assist interns interested in pursuing careers in public policy advocacy for
people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).  See Application
 and Internship FAQs for more information.  For 38 years, Paul Marchand
was a dedicated disability policy advocate and recognized leader working on behalf of
people I/DD and the larger disability community. Upon his retirement in 2011, The Arc,
with substantial contributions from United Cerebral Palsy, other organizations, and
individuals with whom Paul worked during his decades in Washington, established an
internship to honor Paul and to continue to cultivate disability policy advocates.

Tony Paulauski
Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423
815-464-1832 (OFFICE)
815-464-1832 (CELL)