House committee votes to repeal CLASS Act

The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted Wednesday to repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act by a count of 33-17. The full House may now vote to repeal the program as early as the end of 2011.

Democratic Reps. Mike Ross of Arkansas, Jim Matheson of Utah and John Barrow of Georgia broke from their party’s support of CLASS and voted for the repeal.

The White House this past October said it did not support a repeal of CLASS after the Department of Health and Human Services shutdown implementation of the program. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said her agency had not “identified a way to make CLASS work at this time.”

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who voted for the repeal said they would not give up on pursuing long-term care reforms, but that they would also not support more time spent attempting to restructure CLASS. Republicans are also pushing a repeal of CLASS partly because HHS could face legal action by not implementing the program’s promise of a benefit plan by the law’s mandated deadline.

“Congress routinely delegates specific authority to administrative agencies to implement federal programs. Assuming that the Secretary takes no further action to comply with the CLASS Act’s statutory mandate to designate a benefit plan by October 1, 2012, the Secretary would appear to be committing a facial violation of the statutory requirement to designate such a plan,” according to a Congressional Research Service memo sent to the committee on November 15.

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