Budget & Appropriations – House and Senate Expected to Vote on their Budget
Resolutions later this week; Aiming to have agreement by April 15
Both House and Senate leadership have announced that they expect floor votes later this
week on their annual budget resolutions (see details below). Congressional leaders also
announced that they hope to have a budget agreement by April 15th. If the House and
Senate agreement in the form of a Budget Resolution includes any budget reconciliation
instructions, then the designated committees will begin developing bills to reach the
spending cut targets specified. The Appropriations Committees will also begin working on
their respective spending bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 which begins on October 1, 2015
using the totals specified by the Budget Resolution. Advocates are urged to oppose both
budgets. Stay tuned for an action alert.
Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), Chairman of the House Budget Committee, released the proposed
House FY 2016 Budget Resolution on March 17. The measure was passed by the Budget
Committee the next day. While Congressional budgets are merely blueprints, they set the
tone for spending and revenue priorities. The proposed House budget would cut overall
spending by $5.5 trillion and reduce revenues by at least $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
Included in the spending cuts are combined cuts to the Medicaid program of $1.8 trillion.
The proposed budget contains numerous specific provisions that would be devastating for
vulnerable populations, including people with disabilities. Prime among these are:
Medicaid. The House budget would cut Medicaid by $913 billion over 10 years
through “flexible state allotments,” resulting in a cut of more than 30 percent by 2025.
The federal government would no longer pay a fixed share of states’ Medicaid costs,
starting in 2017. Instead, states would get a fixed dollar amount known as block
grants or “state flexibility funds” (the process for determining the amounts of these
funds is not specified).
Repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including Medicaid expansion. The
Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded Medicaid to cover people with incomes up to
133% of the poverty level ($15,654 for an individual). The proposed House budget
would repeal the ACA, resulting in millions of people losing access to health care.
Medicare. The House budget would fundamentally restructure the Medicare
program, including privatization and over $100 billion in spending cuts over 10 years.
Discretionary Programs. Non-defense discretionary programs would be cut starting in
2017. The total 10 year cut would be $759 billion, or 14 percent below the current
caps. Included in this category are many disability related programs such as housing,
education, employment, transportation, and protection and advocacy.
Social Security. The House budget would cut benefits for Social Security Disability
Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries who also receive Unemployment Insurance because
they have attempted to work, but lost their job through no fault of their own. It also
reiterates a provision in the House rules for the 114th Congress that sets up hurdles
to a routine replenishment of Social Security’s disability fund, needed to prevent
across-the-board SSDI benefit cuts at the end of 2016. Finally, the House budget
recommends establishing a commission to look at Social Security’s long term finances.
Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, released the
proposed Senate FY 2016 Budget Resolution on March 18, one day after the release of the
House Budget. In a party-line vote, the Senate Budget Committee passed the measure on
March 19. The proposed Senate budget provides for a slightly smaller overall spending cut
goal of $5.1 trillion over 10 years, with $4.3 trillion cut from mandatory programs and $97
billion from discretionary programs. The combined Medicaid cuts would exceed $1.3 trillion
over ten years. Specific provisions of great concern to the disability community are:
Medicaid. The Senate budget would radically restructure Medicaid by converting
much of it into two block grants (no information is provided on how the funding levels
would be set). It “improves Medicaid based on the CHIP model” and “increases state
flexibility in designing benefits and administering its programs, to encourage efficiency
and reduce wasteful spending” for long term services and supports. (Fortunately, it
makes no changes to the funding of acute care services for the low-income elderly
and persons with disabilities.)
Repeal of the ACA, including Medicaid expansion. The Senate budget seeks to
repeal the ACA.
Medicare. $435 billion in Medicare savings is proposed, none of it specified.
Discretionary Programs. The Senate budget “strengthens the caps” on discretionary
spending. It would maintain full sequestration in 2016, and cuts funding for non-
defense discretionary programs at least $236 billion below the sequestration levels
through 2025. By 2025, total funding for non-defense discretionary programs would
be at least 24 percent below the 2010 level adjusted for inflation.
Social Security – Bill to Strengthen Finances Introduced in House
Rep. John Larson (D-CT) has introduced the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R.1391) along with
54 cosponsors. The bill provides for numerous improvements to Social Security benefits,
including a modest benefit increase for current and new beneficiaries, starting in 2015; an
improved annual cost of living adjustment; a tax break for over 10 million Social Security
beneficiaries by raising the threshold for taxation on benefits for individual and joint filers;
and a new minimum benefit that will be 25 percent above the poverty line. The bill would
also make Social Security fully solvent for 75 years and includes a reallocation of Social
Security payroll contributions to prevent a 20% across the board benefit cut in Social
Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in 2016. The bill was referred to the House
Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Long Term Services and Supports & Medicaid – HCBS Settings Rule
Last week, the deadline for states to submit their transition plans to CMS outlining how they
will come into compliance with the HCBS Settings Rule passed. Several states have yet to
submit their final plans; in fact some states are still collecting public comment in response to
their proposals. CMS has not yet approved any of the transition plans which have been
submitted for consideration. Federal resources and state by state details, including draft
and final plans, can be found at www.hcbsadvocacy.org. The Arc will continue to monitor
Housing – Bill Introduced to Provide Permanent Protections for Tenants at Foreclosure
The Permanently Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2015 has been introduced in
the House and Senate (H.R. 1354). introduced March 13 by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and
24 cosponsors; S. 730, introduced March 12 by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and 5
cosponsors). The bills would provide permanent protections for tenants at foreclosure,
formerly available under the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 (PTFA; P.L.
111-22, Division A, Title VII). The PTFA expired at the end of 2014. The PTFA was the
only federal protection for renters living in foreclosed properties. It provided most renters
with the right to at least 90 days of notice before being required to move after foreclosure.
The Arc supports this important legislation to enhance protections for tenants at
foreclosure, including tenants with disabilities and their families.
Disability Policy Seminar
It’s almost here! The Disability Policy Seminar will take place April 13-15, 2015 at the
Renaissance Downtown Hotel in Washington, D.C. Don’t miss out; register now. Make sure
your voice is heard on critical disability policy issues!
Disability Policy Seminar – Webinar 3/31/15
If you are a first-timer to the Disability Policy Seminar, you might want to register for the
Association on University Centers on Disabilities’ (AUCD) webinar, “Know Before You Go:
Preparing for the Disability Policy Seminar 2015.” Presented by AUCD’s Director of Public
Policy, Kim Musheno, this hosting organization’s webinar offers an orientation to the current
policy issues one can expect to learn about at the Disability Policy Seminar. The webinar
covers the basics of how to make an appointment to meet with Congressional
representatives, how to deliver a unified message about federally funded programs that
benefit people with disabilities, and tips on preparing for and making visits to your
Members of Congress on Capitol Hill.
Tony Paulauski Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423