Both the House and Senate will be on recess from February 20 until the 24, which means that Representatives and Senators will be working in their district or state (instead of in DC). Recess provides a good opportunity to meet with Members of Congress to discuss legislative and other policy issues that are important to you and your family, such as health care, employment, education, and long term services and supports. For more information about any of these issues and more, please visit AUCD's policy page.
Secretary of Education
On February 7, the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. Vice President Mike Pence was present to cast the vote to break a 50-50 tie. Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) were the only two Republicans to vote against her nomination. Last week Democrats held a Capitol Hill rally and an all-night-long filibuster in opposition to her nomination.
The Senate also confirmed Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as Attorney General. The US Attorney General is the head of the US Department of Justice and acts as chief law enforcement officer and chief lawyer of the US, and is responsible for upholding the federal civil rights laws. Sessions gave up his seat in the Senate after being confirmed. On Thursday the Senate Budget Committee named Session's replacement, Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) to the Budget Committee.
Secretary of Health and Human Services
The Senate confirmed Representative Tom Price (R-GA) to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services during on February 10. No Democratic senators supported Price in the 52-47 vote. During the debate, Democrats argued Price's positions are out of line with Trump's campaign promises, among them that he wouldn't cut entitlement programs.
This week, the Senate plans to vote on the confirmation of Steven Mnuchin as Secretary of the Treasury and Linda McMahon to be the Administrator of the Small Business Administration.
The Senate has confirmed each of President Trump's nominees that it has voted on so far; fifteen members of the cabinet and eight other top administration posts require Senate confirmation. Here is a full list of how each senator voted on Trump's Cabinet and Administration Nominees; here is the latest list of Trump's Cabinet from the New York Times.
Acting Commissioner of Social Security
On January 23 Nancy Berryhill became the acting commissioner of the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA). Berryhill has been with the SSA for 40 years beginning as a student employee working on the "frontlines" and later as the Deputy Commissioner of Operations. As the acting commissioner she will be responsible for overseeing Social Security's $12 billion budget and helping to implement the Social Security Act .
Secretary of Labor
On February 16, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Andrew Puzder to be the Secretary of Labor. The Department of Labor is the agency responsible for the implementation of federal labor and employment laws, including those relating to wages and hours. Additionally, it includes the Office of Disability Employment Policy which is a non-regulatory agency that promotes employment of people with disabilities.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Also on February 16, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Seema Verma to be Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS oversees both Medicare and Medicaid (Medicare is a health insurance program for Social Security beneficiaries, while Medicaid is a joint state-federal health insurance program for low-income individuals). Both programs serve people with disabilities. In addition to medical care, Medicaid also covers long term supports and services such as residential support, personal assistance, respite care, supported living, assistive technology, and supported employment. Verma is an Indianapolis-based health-care consultant who helped designed Indiana's HIP 2.0 a controversial state plan based on the idea that beneficiaries should be required to take more responsibility for their health and their finances.
Education and the Workforce
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hold hearings this week to discuss a number of important issues facing America's workers, job creators, and vulnerable youth: February 14 Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing entitled "Restoring Balance and Fairness to the National Labor Relations Board." February 15 the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education will hold a hearing entitled "Providing Vulnerable Youth the Hope of a Brighter Future Through Juvenile Justice Reform." February 16 Subcommittee on Workforce Protections will hold a hearing entitled "Federal Wage and Hour Policies in the Twenty-First Century Economy."
Guidelines for State Assessment of Schools
Congress is attempting to roll back several regulations (H J Res 57, HJ Res 58, H J Res 44) issued by the Obama Administration, including one that's important to the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (PL 114-95). AUCD believes the accountability and state plans regulations provide useful clarity for advocates, states, districts and schools to help implement the new law. The rules were finalized in late November last year after the department received more than 21,000 comments on the draft proposal. The House passed a resolution to repeal the regulation under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) on February 7. The regulation also has been targeted by the Senate Republican Policy Committee, which listed the rule as one to eliminate under the CRA, which would not only end the rule but also prevent the Education Department from creating similar regulations in the future. The CCD Education Task Force sent a letter in opposition to this resolution. AUCD also signed a letter prepared by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights expressing opposition.
Immediately following her confirmation, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a letter to chief state school officers regarding new timelines on the state plans required under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This letter follows the announced delay by the Department of Education of the effective date of regulations concerning accountability and State plans until March 21, 2017. The February 10 letter emphasizes that states should continue to move forward and that the Department will work to ensure that states' education leaders have the state and local flexibility that Congress intended.
Other rules that could be overturned under the CRA include the Social Security Administration NPRM on NICS and the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order. Both have passed the House and may come up for a vote in the Senate soon.
On February 7, Representative Rosa DeLauro (D, CT) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D, NY) reintroduced the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. The FAMILY Act aims to create a self-sustaining family insurance program for all workers - young and elderly, single and married, and men and women, regardless of the size of their employer. Modeled after successful state programs, and yielding low costs, the fund would provide up to 66 percent wage-replacement for 12 weeks in the event of a serious personal or family medical emergency. The legislation uses current Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guidelines for close family and medical coverage. Therefore it "covers adult children who are incapable of self-care and siblings if they stand in place of parents". Currently, H.R.1439 has 137 cosponsors and S.786 has 27; though there are currently no Republican cosponsors. AUCD supports this bill and will continue to monitor its progress.
On February 15, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services and related agencies will hold a hearing on Mental Health care entitled Examining Treatment and Services.
AUCD is working with its partners at CCD, Families USA, and Protect Your Care to organize state coalitions to help ensure that comprehensive, affordable, and accessible health care is available to everyone, including those with pre-existing conditions. Network members and allies interested in participating, please contact Christine Grosso.
In addition, AUCD is seeking stories about how the ACA and/or Medicaid has played a role in the lives of people with disabilities and families (positive or negative). Please send ACA and Medicaid stories to Christine Grosso.
Not sure if you or someone you know has benefited from the ACA or is on Medicaid? Not to worry! Use these helpful guides to find out: ACA Questions and State Medicaid Program Names.
The National Resource Center held a webinar A Deeper Look at Four New ABLE Programs, which featured presentations from representatives on behalf of the STABLE Kentucky Program, Michigan's MiABLE Program, the Oregon ABLE Savings Plan, and Virginia's ABLEnow Program. Areas covered during the webinar included: learning the enrollment process of each program; learning the fees associated with each program; learning the investment opportunities offered with each program; identifying how those differences may affect which program best meets your needs.
Immigration and Refugees
Last Thursday, a San Francisco-based appeals court delivered a rebuke of President Trump's executive order on immigration and refugees, rejecting the administration's request to resume the travel ban and setting up a potential case in the U.S. Supreme Court. Regardless of US citizenship or residency status, this order bars individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days, and indefinitely halts refugees from Syria. While this ban emphasizes race, it also inherently discriminates against immigrants with disabilities, making it harder to legally enter or remain in the country. In many countries including the US, people with disabilities have historically been banned from entering a country based on their disability.
AUCD Public Policy Committee
The AUCD Public Policy Committee will hold its monthly meeting by phone tomorrow. For more information on how to participate, please contact Christine Grosso.
Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All
In celebration of Jewish Awareness and Inclusion Month, this week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All Liz interviews Rabbi Michael Safra, one of the Rabbi's at B'nai Israel congregation. In case you missed last week's episode, Liz interviewed Jamie Vickery, Director of Federal Affair at March of Dimes, about the Zika virus and how to protect against it.
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For updates from our Executive Director Andy Imparato, follow @AndyAUCD.
For more policy news, follow Kim on Twitter at @kmusheno
For definitions of terms used in In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms