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Friday, November 28, 2014

ABLE Act on Track to Passage

Susan Davis writes at USA Today:
Congress is set to approve the first major piece of legislation affecting Americans with disabilities in nearly 25 years with sweeping, bipartisan support.
"It's a good opportunity to show how we can work together," said Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., the lead House sponsor of the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act.
With 381 House sponsors and 74 Senate sponsors ranging on the ideological spectrum from conservative Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., to liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., the ABLE Act boasts 85% of Congress as a co-sponsor.
It's a distinction shared by no other major piece of legislation taken up by this Congress. The bill is the biggest piece of legislation to affect disabled Americans since the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
Supporters of the bill faced some hurdles getting it to the floor. An initial $20 billion cost estimate made some lawmakers hesitate, but negotiators ultimately revised the legislation to reduce the cost to $2 billion by clarifying beneficiaries must have been diagnosed with a disability by age 26, and that beneficiaries can only have one account.
Outside fiscal conservative groups still balked. The Heritage Foundation in early November declared the bill "a decisive step in expanding the welfare state" that would contribute to the complexity of the tax code instead of simplifying it.
Their opposition, which at times has been potent on fiscal legislation, is unlikely to derail the legislation, supporters said.
"We totally disregard that notion and we almost find it offensive," said Sara Weir of the National Down Syndrome Society. "It's allowing families and individuals to save their private funds that they raised. This isn't a handout from government or a new program, it's a hand up and it eliminates inequities that exist in the system right now."