Clock winds down on unproductive Congress

By: Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director, Governmental Relations Division

2013 is quickly coming to a close on what is now being called one of the least productive first sessions of Congress since 1995 and possibly the least productive ever. The House of Representatives will adjourn on Dec. 13, and the Senate will follow on Dec. 20.

According to The Washington Post, fewer than 60 public laws have been enacted this year, far below the postwar low of 88 achieved in 1995. Although some cite a GOP-controlled House and Democratic-run Senate as the root cause of the political gridlock, others point to recent examples where Congress has come together to work on the issues. Sean Sullivan of The Post writes:

“Divided government certainly doesn’t make it any easier to put new laws on the books, with the Democratic-controlled White House and Senate frequently at odds with the Republican-controlled House. But consider the 110th Congress. Following a 2006 wave election, Democrats took control of the House and Senate for the final two years of Republican George W. Bush’s presidency. Still, they managed to enact 180 public laws during the first session of that Congress and a total of 460 overall.”

Despite congressional inactivity, AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division (GRD) continues to diligently advocate for the profession in the waning weeks of December and into the 2nd session of the 113th Congress.

We are hoping that the House and Senate conferees will soon come to an agreement on the Farm Bill, setting the stage for it to be passed and signed by the president early next year (see related article). Many high priority initiatives for the AVMA are included in the Farm Bill, including the Veterinary Services Investment Act, authorization of $15 million annually for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, a provision prohibiting the attendance at animal fights, and authorization of the Food Agricultural Defense Initiative. The bill also reauthorizes the Animal Health and Disease Research Funds, Centers of Excellence, and the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank.

The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act continues to gain broad, bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. There has been much discussion about the provision, and there is a slight possibility that it may be added to the Farm Bill. If not, we’ll continue to press Congress to pass the bill in January. Last May, in response to a Congressional inquiry, the DEA advised Congress that “…..a veterinarian, who is registered with DEA to dispense controlled substances at a particular location in a state, may travel to other unregistered locations in that same State to dispense controlled substances on an ‘as-needed and random basis,’ provided he/she does not maintain a principle place of professional practice at any of these other locations.” While we are happy with this language, veterinarians are still hearing from regional DEA offices about this issue, and the language does not address the issue of veterinarians having to cross state lines with controlled substances to care for pets and livestock. As a result, the GRD will continue to advocate for passage of this bill.

Please monitor the AVMA Advocacy website, future AVMA Advocates and the AVMA@Work blog for updates as we move past the holidays.

On behalf of the GRD staff, we would like to wish all of our readers happy holidays!

One thought on “Clock winds down on unproductive Congress

  1. Now the AVMA calling Congress nonproductive is truly an example of the Kettle calling the Pot Black.