The 2020 election resulted in a change of power in the Senate as Democrats won both seats in the Georgia Senate special election on Jan. 5th, resulting in a 50-50 split Senate for the first time since 2001. With Vice President Kamala Harris acting as the tiebreaker, Democrats retain a one-vote majority and thus the power to set the Senate agenda and floor schedule.
The House of Representatives will remain in Democratic control, although with a slimmer majority (222-211) than the previous Congress.
Power shift in the Senate
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced a power-sharing agreement on Wednesday to govern the 50-50 split Senate chamber. In an evenly split chamber, the Vice President serves as the tie-breaker, thus giving Democrats a one-vote majority and the power to set the Senate agenda and floor schedule.
With Democrats gaining control of the Senate, there will be a wave of new members who will set the agenda as they take over the committee chairmanships of the 20 committees in the Senate. It is expected that the current ranking members will assume the chairmanships of their respective committees.
Through AGA PAC — the nonpartisan political arm of AGA — we have developed a close working relationship with the incoming chairmen of the key health committees:
Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP)
Sen. Parry Murray (D-WA), who has served as a member of the committee for over two decades and is the current ranking member, will assume the chairmanship of the Senate HELP Committee. The committee’s jurisdiction includes aging, biomedical research and development, individuals with disabilities, and public health.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who is a four-term incumbent and the committee’s ranking Democrat, will serve as the chairmanship of the Finance Committee. This committee has sole or shared jurisdiction of numerous agencies and offices, including HHS and CMS. The committee also oversees Medicare coverage and payment policies.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who is the longest-serving active senator, will take the gavel as chairman of the Appropriations Committee. He has been a member of the committee for over four decades and is the current ranking Democrat. The Committee oversees funding for biomedical research including for NIH.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), who is a three-term incumbent and has served as the top Democrat on the committee since 2017, will lead the Veterans Affairs Committee. The Committee has jurisdiction of veterans’ hospitals, medical care and treatment.
Key updates in the House
While most committee chairmanships will remain unchanged from the previous Congress, there are a few key changes in committee leadership that include AGA congressional champions:
- AGA congressional ally Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) was elected to lead the Appropriations Committee. DeLauro is one of the strongest advocates of NIH research in Congress, especially for NIDDK.
- AGA congressional champion Brett Guthrie (R-KY) will serve as the Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. Guthrie has been one of AGA’s strongest congressional champions and has supported many of AGA’s top legislative priorities. He is also the lead Republican on the Deadliest Cancers Caucus, which raises awareness of recalcitrant cancers — many of which are GI cancers.
- Rep. Kim Schrier (D-WA), a physician who is serving her second term in Congress, was elected on to the Energy and Commerce Committee. She has supported and served as a cosponsor on all AGA’s top legislative priorities and has quickly become an AGA congressional ally. She is also currently the sole female physician in the 117th Congress.
117th Congress: Health care providers
- 16 physicians: 12 in the House and four in the Senate.
- Eight specialty care physicians: Including gastroenterologist and AGA congressional champion, Sen. Bill Cassidy.
- Five dentists: All are incumbent members re-elected to office who serve in the House.
- Two newly elected clinicians: One in the House and one in the Senate.