WORKING DISABLED: Act Demonstrates Clout of Disabled
Growing congressional momentum for the Work Incentives Improvement Act, which advocates say would be the most significant piece of legislation for HIV/AIDS patients and other disabled individuals since the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act nine years ago, is a "testament to the considerable and growing political influence of the disability- rights movement," the New York Times reports. In a speech Friday at the White House, President Clinton said that failure to pass the measure would be to "deny opportunities to millions," and he "urged Congress to approve the [bill] quickly" (Rosenbaum, New York Times, 6/7). "The last big chunk of people in this country who could keep the economy going for all of us, with low inflation, are the Americans with disabilities -- who want to work, who can work, and who are not in the work force," Clinton said, adding, "Every American citizen should have a selfish interest in the pursuit of this goal in the most aggressive possible way" (White House release, 6/4). The Times reports that while the "modest bill" should easily pass the Senate, it has hit some snags. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) has voiced concerns over the bill's estimated costs. Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) opposes the offset revenue that would be raised by "adjusting the way international businesses could credit the foreign taxes they pay against their United States income taxes," and a general uncertainty exists over how many disabled people would actually take advantage of the measure. In Oregon, "where disabled people have been allowed since February to retain Medicaid if they take jobs, only 75 disabled people out of more than 80,000 now on Medicaid have signed up so far" (New York Times, 6/7).
A Washington Post editorial predicts that "the bill will pass in the Senate, as it should, and in the House as well. But the resistance is interesting as an indicator of where the health care debate is headed. Those ... who favor universal health insurance have become committed incrementalists." The "resisters are right that traditional eligibility standards are being breached, and the advocates are likewise right that each of these steps merely puts a face on a legitimate need." The paper concludes, "It's a messy, patchy way to do business, but that's how it's going to be for perhaps quite a while" (Washington Post, 6/4).