News from the Hill – November 2010, First Edition

Election 2010

With the elections now over, we wanted to briefly recap the results and look forward to the 112th Congress. Although a few results are incomplete, more than 80% of PACE-endorsed candidates were victorious (member ID and password required). We are proud of the work NASW members did in support of endorsed candidates, and we thank those of you who shared stories from the campaign trail.

Also, there will be a new makeup to committees in the House of Representatives to reflect the change in party control. We are closely monitoring the decisions made by House Republicans regarding which Ranking Members will be elevated to Chair of that same committee, which Members will be shuffled around, and where incoming freshmen will be seated. This knowledge will help guide our public policy approach moving forward. In the Senate, we expect a fairly similar makeup to the last session, although the Democrats’ diminished majority could lead to slightly smaller representation within each Senate committee.

NASW Legislative Priorities in New Congress

On November 2, 2010 Democrats endured heavy loses nationwide, due to voter dissatisfaction and anger.  Fewer young voters—10 percent on election day- compared with 18 percent in 2008, participated in the electoral process.  Furthermore, the number of minority voters declined despite a concerted effort by Democrats to fervently motivate this group in hopes of sustaining Congressional majorities obtained during the prior election cycle.

The recent national election results are expected to shift the focus of NASW’s legislative activities next year. Perhaps the greatest impact will be felt by Congressional efforts to repeal and replace the new health care reform law. Congressional Republicans are expected to turn immediately to this issue in January and will likely attempt a number of strategies to gut the new law. The House is expected to consider and pass a repeal measure early in the year, but Senate votes are much harder to forecast and the White House would veto a sweeping repeal bill. Falling short of the votes to enact the larger repeal, House Committees with jurisdiction over the law will each be led by advocates of incremental repeal legislation. The GOP is now working on the “replace” components of their legislation, although to date they have not produced any new approaches to health reform. Key GOP proposals for reform have long been dismissed as ineffective by NASW. Nevertheless, these alternatives will be back for consideration, including interstate purchase of bare bones insurance policies, malpractice reform and expansion of high risk pools. NASW expects to support protection of the current law all year, as well as seeking adequate funding to implement critical workforce provisions that would specifically benefit the social work profession.

NASW will continue to aggressively support the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Social Work Reinvestment Act in the new Congress. Congressman Towns is holding a Congressional briefing on the legislation next Wednesday, November 17, 2010 from 10:00am to 12:00pm in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Room which is located at 2203 Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC 20515. Confirmed speakers include Congressman Towns, NABSW Legislative Consultant Dr. Tricia Bent-Goodley, NASW Executive Director Dr. Elizabeth J. Clark, Social Work Policy Institute Director Dr. Joan Levy Zlotnik, NASW President-Elect Dr. Jeane Anastas, and Dean of the University of Maryland School of Social Work Dr. Richard Barth.

This year the Social Work Reinvestment Act lacked support from Congressional Republicans and now GOP support will be critical for passage. Also complicating passage, incoming Republican leaders are expected to greatly reduce the amount of floor time allotted to the consideration of small bills under “suspension of the rules.” Reduced floor time for noncontroversial bills will make consideration of this bill more difficult on the House floor.

The GOP is expected to immediately seek major reductions in current appropriations for most categories of domestic spending; affecting human needs programs strongly supported by NASW. We anticipate resisting cuts in programs historically supported by the profession.

President Obama’s immediate goals appear to be pursuit of a bipartisan accord on whether to extend the expiring Bush tax cuts and responding to a report from his deficit commission expected to be publicized at the beginning of December 2010.  Meanwhile, NASW continues to advocate for initiatives that offset America’s troubling unemployment rate, which currently is 9.6 percent nationwide.  The Association recognizes that high unemployment remains an impediment to the needs of families, especially children and exacerbates simultaneously the growth of poverty.  To this end, we believe that common ground is now a strategic necessity on initiatives such as the Local Jobs for America Act (H.R.4812) and the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R.12) which will help to alleviate hardships for those most vulnerable and in so doing, foster economic growth.

House Republicans on the Education and Labor Committee are expected to seek repeal of major elements of the No Child Left Behind as well as the President’s Race to the Top program.

U.S. Signs Child Protection Convention

On October 22, the United States signed the Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children.  The agreement ensures international recognition and enforcement of custody and visitation orders and contains provisions addressing cooperation on key issues such as runaway children and the cross-border placement of children in foster families or institutional care.

While the convention must be approved by the U.S. Senate, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the State Department will work closely with Congress, other federal agencies, and local officials to address implementation of the convention in the United States.  The Senate recently approved the Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance.  The Convention for the Protection of Children is meant to complement and reinforce the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Medicare Payment Cuts In Store for Physicians & CSWs

Last week the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released final Medicare payment rules for physician services, including those of clinical social workers and psychologists. The rule, over 2,000 pages in length, applies to payments for physicians, clinical social workers and other Part B providers for calendar year 2011. Without Congressional action, practitioner payments will be slashed by 21 percent beginning December 1 and another four percent cut on January 1. Furthermore, payments for psychotherapy codes will be reduced by an additional four percent under the rule. When Congress returns for their lame duck session next week, NASW will advocate for quick action to stop the cuts to ensure there is no disruption in access to care for beneficiaries. Social workers interested in more information about the complex Medicare payment formula governing outpatient services may view this recent CMS fact sheet on the physician payment formula.

National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths

NASW is partnering with Every Child Matters Education Fund, the National Children’s Alliance, the National District Attorneys Association, and the National Center for Child Death Review to end child abuse deaths. According to the Administration for Children and Families, 12,180 children died from abuse and neglect between 2001 and 2008. The coalition has a petition that you can sign to ask Congress to hold hearings to investigate child deaths caused by abuse and neglect, provide emergency funds to stop state cuts in child protection services and adopt a national strategy to prevent child abuse and stop these deaths.

Advocacy Blog Roundup

NHPCO: We Honor Veterans Campaign will Help Providers Care for Veterans at the End of Life

Advocacy Listserv Activity

In the month of October, 137 activists sent 469 advocacy messages to Congress and the White House through Capwiz. The most active alerts were about the Increased Student Achievement through Increased Student Support Act and extending the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Emergency Contingency Fund.  Thanks to all of you who took the time to take action!  To see all alerts, go here.

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