Americans across the country went to the polls yesterday and voted for a change in leadership in our nation’s capital. While some cheered and others jeered at the election results, we believe that the new Republican Senate will only slightly impact the association’s legislative portfolio since most veterinary medical issues cross party lines.
One of the most notable changes we’ll see come January is Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) replacing Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as the Senate majority leader. The Senate majority leader is primarily tasked with not only speaking on behalf of their party, but managing and scheduling the legislative business of the Senate, which means that they can prioritize which bills make it to the floor. According to National Journal, Republicans have a full agenda of items they would like to tackle next session:
“Under their new two-chamber majority, Senate Republicans believe that they can get enough Democratic votes to send approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s medical-device tax, free-trade agreements, and a number of House-passed jobs bills that have languished in the Senate this Congress to the president’s desk in 2015. Many would also like to see a repeal of the health care law’s risk corridors and an overhaul of the tax system added to that list, but the chances of earning enough Democratic votes on either proposition are lower.”
McConnell has pledged to make some procedural changes to how the Senate conducts its business and strive to work together in a bipartisan way on many legislative issues before Congress. Although some worry what Republican control of both chambers may look like, let’s not forget that the president has the ultimate veto power, so it may be more important now than ever for the two political parties to reach across the aisle to get things done for the American people.
Another change we’ll see is within the leadership of the individual committees. This will be the first time in eight years that Republicans have been in control of the Senate, which will bring about new chairmanships within many of the committees that the AVMA regularly works with. In the U.S. House, Republicans have expanded their majority so we will see a shuffling within the committee structure there as well. With new committee leadership comes its own set of rules and agendas, meaning once again at the committee level we’ll see chairmen who choose to tackle certain legislation right away, while slowing the process, if not halting it, for other bills. That’s just politics.
No matter who is in power, the AVMA works with members on both sides of the aisle since our legislative portfolio touches so many areas—animal health and welfare, food safety, agricultural and biomedical research, public health, environmental issues, small business issues, and veterinary professional and educational issues.
The 114th Congress does not formally begin until Jan. 3, 2015, so Congress is now entering what is called a “lame duck” session. When Congress returns to the capital next week, it will be grappling with many high-priority national issues, including the ISIS threat, containing the Ebola virus both at home and abroad, and funding the government.
During the lame duck session, the AVMA will be working on finalizing fiscal 2015 funding for key veterinary programs, advancing the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act as part of any tax legislation that is implemented, and urging passage of both the Marketplace Fairness Act and the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act. These bills have gained a lot of momentum over the past two years of this Congress, but unfortunately they will die in December if they are not passed in the next few weeks.
The PAST Act, which would make the abusive act of soring horses illegal, has reached an all-time high in support—more than 300 cosponsors in the House and nearly 60 in the Senate. AVMA members: if you have not written your congressional officials about this bill yet, please do so NOW because otherwise this momentum will die by the new year, leaving us to start all over again next session. Take action here>
Veterinarians elected to Congress
Veterinarians and U.S. House members Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) won re-election yesterday. Schrader defeated Clackamas County Commissioner Tootie Smith with a 54-39 percent majority, winning his fourth term in Congress. Yoho clinched his second term by defeating educator Marihelen Wheeler with a 65-32 percent majority.
Since neither candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote in Louisiana’s fifth district, Republican Dr. Ralph Abraham, a physician and former veterinarian, will be competing against Democratic challenger Jamie Mayo, the mayor of the city of Monroe, in a runoff election on Dec. 6. Mayo led the open general election with 28 percent followed by Abraham’s 22 percent. We will be anxiously watching to see if a third veterinarian will be elected to the 114th Congress.