GOP lawmakers: Give Americans with disabilities a better life

A trio of senior GOP lawmakers talked up legislation the House passed this week to help people with disabilities, saying the measure was just one way Republicans were working to improve the life of working people.

In the GOP’s weekly address, Reps. Ander Crenshaw (Fla.), Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersShimkus announces he will stick with plan to retire after reconsidering Bipartisan group reveals agricultural worker immigration bill DC's liaison to rock 'n' roll MORE (Wash.) and Pete Sessions (Texas) said the Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE, Act would “empower millions,” as McMorris Rodgers put it. 

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The ABLE Act, first introduced by Crenshaw eight years ago, allows people with disabilities to set up tax-free savings accounts. The legislation is intensely personal for both McMorris Rodgers and Sessions, who both have sons with Down syndrome.

“I can’t thank all of the people enough, all the families out there who have helped us get the ABLE Act to this point,” said Sessions, the House Rules chairman, whose son Alex turns 21 next month.

“It’s one of those ideas really where you ask yourself: ‘Why aren’t we doing this already?’”

In fact, the ABLE Act is one of the more broadly popular bills introduced in Congress over the last two years, with three-quarters or more of lawmakers in both the House and Senate on record supporting it. The House passed the measure 404-17 on Wednesday, and the Senate is expected to take it up before it breaks for the year next week.

Supporters say the bill is necessary because people with Down syndrome, autism and other conditions are limited in how much they can save before putting their Medicaid and Social Security benefits at risk. That can convince people with disabilities not to work – a situation that would be rectified under the ABLE Act, which creates savings accounts similar to what parents use for their children’s college education.

McMorris Rodgers, the No. 4 Republican in the House, said the current set-up only encourages people like her seven-year old son Cole “to resign themselves to a life of dependence.”

“This is why we’re here: to advance solutions that make people’s lives better,” added McMorris Rodgers. “Solutions that empower all Americans – no matter where they come from, how much money they make, or what challenges they face.”

Republicans emphasized the ABLE Act and its bipartisan bona fides at a time when lawmakers are still searching for a way to fund the government, and as the party’s rank-and-file remain angered at President Obama’s end-around on immigration. 

“When you listen to Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Pete Sessions and their stories, it’s easy to see why the ABLE Act will open the door for a brighter future for millions of Americans,” said Crenshaw.

“I can’t think of a greater privilege than to speak out with legislation for people that can’t often speak for themselves.”