Shared by John Gordon, Bureau Chief of Blind Services Illinois
A portion of Lori Zenner’s correspondence – Business Week Ending 1/13/17 Resignation of RSA Commissioner Janet LaBreck
NATIONAL, HILL AND DC NEWS:
In keeping with past practice Presidential appointees were asked to submit their resignations. Among these was RSA Commissioner Janet LaBreck. She will be leaving office on Friday, January 20th. Until a new commissioner is appointed we understand that Ed Anthony will be acting as interim commissioner. On our call with RSA this past week at the Executive Committee meeting I expressed my gratitude personally and on behalf of the Executive Committee to Janet for her leadership and work as Commissioner. I repeat that here. Much happened on her watch including the passage of WIOA. Her continuing efforts to work with CSAVR and the state VR agencies and her responsiveness to requests, questions, and concerns have been very much appreciated. Thank you, Commissioner, for a job well done. We wish you the best in this next portion of your life and hope to continue to see you advocating strongly as you have for the public VR program.
The confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Education secretary, has been moved to January 17, a decision announced late Monday night by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The hearing was initially scheduled for this past Wednesday, the same day as several other confirmation hearings and a planned marathon voting session. Democrats raised concerns that not all nominees have completed the process of disclosing their finances to the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), which screens candidates for potential conflicts of interest. As of last Monday night, the office had not made any documents on DeVos public.
Chairman Alexander, R-Tenn., and ranking Democrat Murray of Washington State said in a joint statement late Monday night that they changed the hearing date at the request of leadership. Murray said in an interview on Tuesday that DeVos’ hearing was delayed because “there was a jam of hearings. I think this gives us time to hopefully get her ethics information in, as well.” OGE Director Walter Shaub said the office does not typically release a nominee’s information if their reviews are not complete.
Apparently, Ms. DeVos was not alone. According to the OGE, there were other nominees who had not submitted their information. Although, the office did not identify them.
Also, the confirmation hearing of Wilbur Ross for Commerce secretary was moved from Thursday to January 18. And the confirmation hearing for fast food executive Andy Puzder, nominated for Labor secretary, has been rescheduled from January 17 to potentially next month. According to sources, the hearing may not be until February. Democrats are reportedly gearing up to grill Puzder on a number of issues including treatment of workers at some of his Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. burger restaurants.
Another Trump selection that may impact VR was announced on Wednesday when the President Elect shared his selection of an Obama nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). David Shulkin was nominated by President Obama as under secretary of health for the VA in 2015 and Trump has now nominated him to be the VA Secretary. “He’s fantastic,” Trump said of Shulkin. “He will do a truly great job.” Trump made the announcement during his first press conference since his election, and his transition team released a formal announcement shortly afterward. In a statement released by Trump’s transition team, Shulkin said both he and Trump are “eager” to reform to the VA in a “swift, thoughtful and responsible way.”
The fight over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues. The Senate early Thursday took a first step toward repeal of the health care law by adopting a fiscal 2017 budget resolution following a seven-hour voting session. Senators voted 51-48 to adopt the budget resolution, with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky casting the only Republican vote against it. The chamber considered 19 amendments before the final vote — and stymied each one, mostly through procedural votes. After a mostly uneventful night of debate, the final vote was marked with some drama as Democrats stood up at their desks to explain their votes, a highly unusual move. Their major concern is that there is no replacement program.
The budget resolution sets up the repeal of the health care law through the budget reconciliation process, which would occur through separate legislation. But perhaps the key amendment of the vote-a-rama, to delay an initial deadline to write legislation to repeal the 2010 health care law, was withdrawn without a vote. The provision from Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and other more moderate GOP senators would have pushed back the Jan. 27 deadline for four House and Senate committees to write legislation to repeal the health care law, the sole purpose of the budget resolution under consideration. Corker withdrew the amendment, which would have extended the deadline to March 3, after noting that the date was not binding.
While the repeal of the ACA is on the list of things to be done by GOP in Congress, there are others. In the hopes of capitalizing on the grace period that many new Administrations get in their first 100 days, GOP leaders in Congress hope to also address tax reform, infrastructure funding for roads, bridges, and airports, and the reversal of regulations adopted by the current Administration. Towards the goal of regulation reversal, Congress has been already considering different bills including one this past week that would delay any rules that are projected to cost more than $1B annually.
The senator who presides over the presidential inauguration as the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies wins some appreciation from colleagues on Capitol Hill. But the job’s risks are greater than any public accolades it brings. This year the person in charge comes from the Show Me State with MO Senator Roy Blunt handling the work. He’s a longtime member of the GOP leadership team, but never the top dog. He’s currently the vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. Blunt announced last month that a painting by the 19th-century Missouri artist George Caleb Bingham, “Verdict of the People,” will hang in Statuary Hall during the luncheon that follows Trump’s swearing-in. It features an election official reading results to a crowd. The St. Louis Art Museum is loaning it to Congress for the occasion. The painting will provide a natural lead-in to Blunt’s remarks at the luncheon, another duty of the senator serving as master of ceremonies. His main goal is to ensure that all goes smoothly and that folks enter and leave safely. Among those expected to attend are Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton who will reportedly attend with her husband former President Bill Clinton.
It is always good to recognize and celebrate success. According to the National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE), now marks the longest run of employment gains for Americans with disabilities since the Great Recession. In the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Jobs Report, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities increased from 26.6 percent in December 2015 to 28.7 percent in December 2016 (up 7.9 percent; 2.1 percentage points). “For the ninth consecutive month, we see improvement in the employment-to-population ratio for people with disabilities; the longest stretch ever seen since the BLS started publishing disability employment statistics in October 2008,” noted John O’Neill, PhD, director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. “These improvements in the employment situation for people with disabilities in 2016 were better than the gains we saw last year. Let’s hope that this trend continues and we are able to reach pre-recession employment levels in 2017.” I am sure we all share John’s hope that the trend continues and I am very confident that it will because of the great work you and your staff continue to do. Congratulations. This trend is in large part due to your efforts and work. Please keep up the great work and thank you.