September 14, 2012

September 14 Washington Update


WASHINGTON UPDATE 9/14/12

Greetings from Washington!  We hope you had a great summer and, if applicable, are settling into the school year without too much trouble.

Congress is back in session, but not too ambitious about legislating before the election.  There is only one thing considered “must-do” before then, and that is to pass appropriations legislation to fund the operation of the government for FY 2013, which begins in just a couple weeks (October 1).  Theoretically, Congress should pass 12 different appropriations bills to fund the various departments and agencies of the executive branch, judicial branch and Congress itself.  In recent years, however, that has seldom happened, and this year is no exception.  Instead, Congress is expected to pass a “continuing resolution” (CR) to fund the government at approximately the same level as last year.  The House approved the pre-negotiated CR yesterday, and the Senate is expected to do so next week. 

This CR will keep the government running until March 27, 2013.  Also of great importance, the CR also includes a reauthorization of the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program.

“Mandatory” spending, such as funding for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid – and F2Fs – does not need to be appropriated, so is not affected by the CR.  Speaking of F2Fs…

F2F funding bills (S. 2123 and H.R. 4083).  After the last Washington update, but before the Senate adjourned in August, another Senator joined S. 2123 – Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI).  Now the Senate bill has ten cosponsors in addition to Senator Menendez.  There are no new cosponsors in the House, so the House bill still has a total of 12 cosponsors in addition to Representative Pallone.  Cosponsors of both bills are listed at the end of this update.

It is our hope that the F2F legislation will be incorporated into a larger piece of legislation that is enacted during the “lame duck” session of Congress after the election.  See “Sequester” item below.

Thus, the policy team continues efforts to garner congressional support for the legislation by meeting with Hill staffers, particularly those of Senate Finance Committee members.  As some of you know, we are copying the F2Fs from the applicable states on email correspondence with the staffers, and letting them know that they can get more information from you about the F2F in your state. 

If we hope to get the F2Fs re-funded, Members of Congress will need to hear from F2Fs about how effectively they are spending their federal grant funds, and from families about how important F2F services have been in their lives.

If your Members of Congress have not yet cosponsored the legislation, please contact them to ask that they do so.  See the guidance at the end of this update or click here now to send a pre-drafted letter to your Representative.  Please forward this information to your family, friends, health care providers, and other families of CYSHCN and ask them to contact their Members of Congress as well. 

And, if you haven’t done so already, please thank your Senator(s) and Representative who have cosponsored the legislation. You can find their contact information by clicking on their names on the list of cosponsors at the end of this update.

Remember to undertake these activities in your personal capacity, not as an F2F, since federal resources may not be used for lobbying.

The Sequester.  You may recall talk last year of a congressional “Super Committee” that was supposed to come up with a plan to cut the deficit.  The committee could not come to an agreement, however, triggering an automatic cut – “sequester” -- in federal spending to begin on January 2, 2013.  Today, the administration announced estimates of how much would be cut from each government program next year if the sequester goes into effect.  See articles at http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Home/Daily-Reports/2012/September/14/sequestration-details.aspx.  

Some programs, including Medicaid, are exempt from these cuts.  Medicare cuts would be limited to 2 percent and would come from provider payments, not benefits.  Many programs, however, are subject to cuts of roughly 8 to 9 percent, including defense, biomedical research, and many programs that help people with disabilities, just to name a few. 

The intent of the law that imposes these automatic cuts was to prompt Congress and the administration to negotiate a more rational way to reduce the deficit.  Because the sequester is disliked by almost everyone, such an agreement might be worked out during the lame duck session of Congress after the election, depending on the election outcome.  Alternatively, a law delaying the sequestration cuts might be enacted.  At the same time, Congress will need to decide what to do about the expiring tax cuts that were enacted over a decade ago.  Will all the tax cuts be extended, or just those for the “middle class”?  Again, this is likely to depend in large part on the outcome of the election, not only on which candidate is chosen to be President, but whether the Senate becomes majority Republican.  If there will be a big shift of power in January, then it less likely that any agreements will be reached this year.  Much suspense!

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As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions. 

Brooke Lehmann, MSW, Esq.
202-333-2770
blehmann@familyvoices.org

Janis Guerney, Esq.
202-546-0558
jguerney@familyvoices.org

NOTE:  Past issues of the Washington update can be found on the Family Voices home page by scrolling down in the “News Feed” section.

Cosponsors of House F2F funding bill, H.R. 4083, sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ): Rep Carson, Andre [IN-7] - 4/26/2012
Rep Cicilline, David N. [RI-1] - 2/17/2012
Rep Engel, Eliot L. [NY-17] - 2/17/2012
Rep Green, Gene [TX-29] - 3/5/2012
Rep Hanabusa, Colleen W. [HI-1] - 7/18/2012
Rep Langevin, James R. [RI-2] - 2/17/2012
Rep Michaud, Michael H. [ME-2] - 2/17/2012
Rep Norton, Eleanor Holmes [DC] - 2/17/2012
Rep Pingree, Chellie [ME-1] - 2/17/2012
Rep Rangel, Charles B. [NY-15] - 3/8/2012
Rep Roybal-Allard, Lucille [CA-34] - 3/20/2012
Rep Waxman, Henry A. [CA-30] - 7/9/2012

Cosponsors of Senate F2F funding bill, S. 2123, sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez:

Sen Bingaman, Jeff [NM] - 2/17/2012
Sen Conrad, Kent [ND] - 2/17/2012
Sen Snowe, Olympia J. [ME] - 2/17/2012
Sen Whitehouse, Sheldon [RI] - 2/17/2012
Sen Lautenberg, Frank R. [NJ] - 2/17/2012
Sen Kerry, John F. [MA] - 3/13/2012
Sen Klobuchar, Amy [MN] - 5/8/2012
Sen Akaka, Daniel K. [HI] - 6/4/2012
Sen Franken, Al [MN] - 6/5/2012
Sen Inouye, Daniel K. [HI] - 8/2/2012

Contacting your Members of Congress about F2F funding bills

All of you who are concerned about the future of F2Fs should contact your Members of Congress to urge that they cosponsor the Menendez or Pallone bill. You can call them through the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.  (To find the names of your Members of Congress, go to http://www.congressmerge.com/onlinedb/index.htm.)  When you speak to the receptionist, state that you are a constituent and ask to speak to the staff person who handles health issues.  If that person is not available to talk, you can leave a BRIEF message identifying yourself as a constituent who has a child with special health care needs (if applicable) and asking that the Representative/Senator cosponsor a bill that would extend funding for Family-to-Family Health Information Centers.  Refer to the appropriate bill number and sponsor – in the Senate, S. 2123, sponsored by Senator Menendez; in the House, H.R. 4083, sponsored by Rep. Pallone.  Leave your home phone number and email address.

You can also write to your Representative (even if you call) via the “Advocacy” section of the Family Voices website, where you will find a pre-written letter that you fill in with your personal information.  (You do not need to know the name of your Representative.)  Please ask families you have worked with, friends, and relatives to write their Representatives through the Family Voices website also.  The URL is http://www.familyvoices.org/action/advocate.   At this time, the website is not configured to automatically send the letter to Senators, but simple instructions about how to contact your Senators, and text to copy and paste, can also be found on that page.  (You do not need to know the names of your Senators.)

Remember:  Federal resources may not be used for lobbying activities.

Please feel free to call Brooke or Janis (contact information above) if you have any questions.