Fiscal Year 2009 Appropriations
Both Houses of Congress passed legislation that would keep most of the federal government operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) until March 6, 2009. Specific appropriations for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs and Military Construction are included in the bill. Virtually all human service programs would be frozen at FY 2008 levels. Further, the CR does not provide additional funding for the administrative costs of the Social Security Administration. This will have a substantial impact on SSA’s ability to reduce the disability hearing backlog and provide services to the public because the agency would need $457 million above the FY ’08 level just to keep pace with inflation in FY ’09. This bill now awaits action by the President.
The House-Senate impasse over tax policy continued as the House brought up, and then withdrew, four tax relief bills that a senior senator said the Senate would not pass. These actions throw into doubt passage of two bills which the disability community has sought to include in the tax entenders bill - mental health parity and a moratorium on the Medicaid outpatient rule. The House is scheduled to adjourn Monday after voting on the financial bailout legislation.
Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) introduced the Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act of 2008 (S.3593), which will reform the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities Program. This legislation is identical to the bill the House of Representatives passed last week (H.R. 5772).
On Wednesday the House of Representatives passed on a voice vote a bill authorizing $13 billion for Amtrak. H.R. 2095 includes rail safety provisions and the Amtrak reauthorization. The language requiring Amtrak to report on their plans for meeting the ADA deadline of station accessibility by 2010 remain in the bill. The Senate will begin consideration of the bill today. While the White House had threatened to veto the House version of the bill (HR 6003), they have yet to offer a view on the compromise bill. If it passes the Senate today it will likely have a veto proof majority.