Even With Senate Management, Democrats Will Want Purchase-In From GOP on Key Well being Priorities
Democrats have argued for extra beneficiant pandemic reduction, extra stress on drugmakers to decrease costs and extra consideration to systemic racism in well being care. On Jan. 20, with management of the Senate and the Home of Representatives, they’ll have the ability to decide on which well being care proposals get a vote in Congress.
The victories of the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Georgia final week gave Democrats two extra Senate seats and the higher hand within the Senate’s now 50-50 cut up. After Vice President-elect Kamala Harris takes the oath of workplace, she’s going to function the tiebreaker as wanted — in impact, Democrats’ 51st vote.
However that vote rely is simply too small to get rid of the filibuster, which means Democrats is not going to have sufficient votes to go a lot of their plans with out Republicans. That may seemingly doom many Democratic well being care proposals, like providing People a government-sponsored public insurance coverage possibility, and complicate efforts to go additional pandemic reduction.
It stays to be seen how prepared lawmakers are to compromise with each other within the aftermath of a pro-Trump mob’s breach of the Capitol on Wednesday. Thursday, Democrats demanded the president’s elimination for inciting rioters who disrupted the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, assaulted Capitol Law enforcement officials and broken federal property. One demonstrator and a police officer have been killed, and three demonstrators died of medical emergencies.
Democrats’ slim margins within the Senate and the Home — the place they will afford to lose solely 4 votes and nonetheless go laws — may also give particular person lawmakers extra leverage, handing those that disagree with celebration leaders an incentive to push their very own priorities in trade for his or her votes. There can be little room for intraparty disagreements, and Democrats made it clear through the presidential primaries that they disagree about how you can obtain their well being care objectives.
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In lower than two weeks, Democrats will lead the committees charged with marking up well being care laws and vetting Biden’s well being nominees.
The change will hand management of the Senate Well being, Schooling, Labor and Pensions Committee to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who brokered the 2013 settlement with then-Home Speaker Paul Ryan that ended a protracted authorities shutdown, amongst different bipartisan offers.
In 2019, Murray and the committee’s Republican chairman, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, launched a wide-ranging bundle to decrease well being prices for customers. Amongst its proposals was an initiative to decrease prescription drug costs by eliminating loopholes that enable brand-name drugmakers to dam competitors.
In an interview earlier than Democrats secured the Senate, Murray mentioned her committee work can be centered on the issues that stop all People from receiving equitable, inexpensive therapy in well being care. Racial disparities, evidenced by disproportionate mortality charges amongst Black moms and amongst communities of coloration struggling the worst impacts of the pandemic, can be a precedence, she mentioned.
“Not all people goes into the physician and will get the identical recommendation, feels the identical consolation degree and is believed,” Murray mentioned.
Murray mentioned she’s going to press for senators to think about how any piece of laws will have an effect on communities of coloration. “It is going to be the query I ask about each step we take,” she mentioned.
On Wednesday, she referred to as out Republicans for standing in the best way of preventing the pandemic “with insurance policies that may straight assist these struggling essentially the most and would assist us construct again from this disaster stronger and fairer.”
“With a Biden-Harris Administration and a Senate Democratic majority, the challenges we face gained’t get any much less powerful — however we’ve lastly received the chance to face them head on and begin taking motion,” Murray mentioned in an announcement. “I can’t wait to begin getting issues achieved.”
The Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicare, Medicaid and health-related tax insurance policies, can be run by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Whereas the HELP committee may also maintain a affirmation listening to for Biden’s nominee for secretary of the Division of Well being and Human Companies, Xavier Becerra, it’s the Finance Committee that can vote to advance his affirmation.
Senate Republicans signaled they’d delay contemplating Becerra’s nomination earlier than Biden formally introduced his identify final month. Calling him unqualified on account of his lack of a well being care background, they questioned his help for a single-payer well being care system and opposed his efforts to protect abortion rights. As California’s lawyer common, Becerra led efforts to battle lawsuits introduced by Republican state officers towards the Inexpensive Care Act.
However Democrats’ slim edge within the Senate is predicted to be sufficient to drown out Republicans’ objections to the nomination. Final month, praising Becerra’s dedication to responding to the pandemic, defending well being care protection and addressing racial disparities, Wyden mentioned he appeared ahead to Becerra’s listening to “so he can get on the job and begin serving to folks throughout this unprecedented disaster.”
Additionally, after months of decrying the Trump administration’s failures managing the pandemic, Democrats will management which reduction payments get a vote.
Final month’s bundle didn’t embody their calls for for extra funding for state and native governments, and Home Republicans blocked a Democratic effort to extend stimulus checks to $2,000, from $600.
Democrats have been united of their requires extra help, although they’ve disagreed at instances about how you can push for it.
Within the fall, with the election approaching and no deal in sight, average Democrats in powerful races pushed for Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi to desert negotiations for a $2.2 trillion reduction bundle that Republicans referred to as a nonstarter in favor of passing extra modest however desperately wanted reduction.
“Each member of the management crew, Democrats and Republicans, have tousled. Everyone seems to be accountable,” Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) informed Politico. “Get one thing achieved. Get one thing achieved!” He misplaced his bid for reelection.
Extra progressive voices like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have been a pressure for extra beneficiant support, notably bigger stimulus checks.
Past the pandemic, high Democrats have talked about drug pricing as one other space ripe for motion. However one among their hottest proposals, which might authorize the federal authorities to barter drug costs for these on Medicare, is unlikely to draw the Republican votes it will want. When Home Democrats handed one such proposal in 2019, Senate Republicans vowed it will by no means go.
Members of Democrats’ extra progressive wing, for his or her half, argued the proposal could not go far sufficient.
After years of Republican efforts to undermine the Inexpensive Care Act, although, it appears to be like seemingly that efforts to stabilize the legislation might acquire extra traction underneath a Democratic-controlled Congress. The Home handed laws final summer time aimed toward growing protection and affordability, together with by capping insurance coverage prices at not more than 8.5% of revenue and increasing subsidies.
Lawmakers like Murray and Wyden have been fast to level out that the pandemic’s devastating penalties — misplaced jobs and misplaced insurance coverage protection, to call only a couple — have solely underscored the necessity to strengthen the well being care system.
This story was produced by Kaiser Well being Information, an editorially unbiased program of the Kaiser Household Basis.
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