Major Events Last Week
Budget – House passes two bills to change budget rules
Last week, the House passed two of ten measuresintroduced by Republicans in December to change budget rules. On February 2, the House passed a bill (HR 3582) that would require the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to take into account the effects that bills might have on economic growth using a calculation called “dynamic scoring.” Traditional CBO scoring simply shows how legislation would affect spending or revenue. House Republicans say the current CBO scoring model uses a method that does not take into account factors such as increasing revenue and paying down the debt. Opponents argue that dynamic scoring is an unreliable process that could distort budget projections.
On February 3, the House passed HR 3578, the Baseline Reform Act, to bar CBO from incorporating inflation increases into its projected spending baselines. Supporters claim that the current system automatically assumes spending increases in its baseline projections. The Arc is concerned that changing the current CBO baseline assumptions would result in even greater cuts to disability-related programs that are already seriously underfunded and have seen few increases in the last few years.
Transportation – Reauthorization bills moving forward in House and Senate
The House and Senate are moving forward on bills to reauthorize the nation’s surface transportation law. A series of short term extensions have kept the highway and transit programs going while Congress debates a longer reauthorization. The House and Senate proposals differ in scope and costs, and have significant policy differences, making it unlikely that the bills could both be passed and reconciled before the short term extension expires at the end of the month.
After a very contentious mark up last week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a 5 year, $260 billion bill that consolidates a number of programs, including the small disability programs that support nonprofits which provide transportation and the programs to improve accessibility. The House approach also makes financing changes that will de-link mass transit from a guaranteed funding stream, which is of great concern to people who use public transportation. The Senate is expected to consider its bipartisan, two year, $109 billion proposal this week. The full House of Representatives may also consider its proposal, though it faces opposition from the Democrats and conservatives in the Republican Party who oppose the spending level.
Major Events Ahead
Housing – House Subcommittee to mark up Section 8 reform bill
On Tuesday, the House Financial Services Committee, Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity Subcommittee is scheduled to mark up a discussion draft of legislation to reform the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 housing choice voucher program and other HUD programs. Section 8 provides rental subsidies that make housing affordable for people with very low incomes, including people with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The draft legislation, the Affordable Housing and Self-Sufficiency Improvement Act of 2012 is availableon the Committee’s web site.
Social Security / Employment – Hearing on payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance benefit extension
The U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee will hold a hearing on “Bolstering the Economy: Helping American Families by Reauthorizing the Payroll Tax Cut and UI Benefits.” The hearing on Tuesday, February 7, will focus on the importance of extending the two-percentage-point payroll tax cut and continuing emergency federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits through the end of 2012. At this hearing, the JEC will examine the economic impact of extending these policies versus allowing them to lapse.
Budget – House expected to consider two bills that would drastically cut federal spending
The House may soon consider two more bills (H.R. 3576and H.R. 3580) in a package of ten bills to alter the federal budget process. Both bills would limit federal spending to levels similar to those in the House-passed budget resolution last year (known as the “Ryan Budget”) which would block grant the Medicaid program. These two bills would require large cuts in federal spending that would likely fall disproportionately on low-income people, would effectively require that all deficit reduction come from program cuts and none from revenues, and would make it easier to cut entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare). Learn more at the CBPP website.
Budget – CBO releases latest report: Budget and Economic Outlook showing dire consequences of policy choices
Each January, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) prepares “baseline” budget projections spanning the next 10 years. The new report projects that government spending for Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care programs will more than double over the next ten years to $1.8 trillion, or 7.3 percent of the country’s total economic output. Health care spending increases are due mainly to the aging U.S. population and rising treatment costs. Medicare accounts for about half of the cost, Medicaid accounts for about one-third of the cost, and the remainder is attributed to new federal subsidies to help lower income Americans purchase insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The report also includes an “alternative fiscal scenario” in which Congress both extends all of the Bush era tax cuts that are scheduled to expire at the end of 2012 and repeals the automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect in early 2013. Under this alternative scenario, CBO projects that the national debt will increase by $11 trillion by 2022. The report is available on the CBO website.
Family Support – New Guide available on Federal Funding and Support for Respite
ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center (ARCH stands for Access to Respite Care and Help) released a new guide: “Federal Funding and Support for Respite: Building Blocks for Lifespan Respite Systems.” This guide lays out basic information about each of the federal programs that could provide respite funding or support. It is meant to be used by state Lifespan Respite Care Programs and their partners to help identify the funding sources. It can also be useful to family caregivers or those who assist them in helping to identify sources of funding that could be used to pay for respite. The guide is divided into eight major sections which can be individually downloaded. One of the sections focuses on Medicaid and Medicare programs. The second section, Medicaid Waiver Programs, describes the largest source of federal funding for respite that serves all age groups and individuals with various types of disabilities and chronic conditions. The guide is available online.