While there was potential for the political climate in Washington, D.C., to look much different come January, very little changed on November 6. President Obama won a second term in an election that ended up not being nearly as close as late polls had suggested. And as the APA Department of Government Relations (DGR) predicted, the House of Representatives remains in Republican control, and Democrats remain in power in the Senate.
Despite the numbers favoring Republicans this election cycle, with 23 Democratic seats up for reelection compared with just 10 Republican seats, Democrats were able to pick up two seats in the Senate, giving them a total of 55 in the chamber, which includes the two Independents who will be caucusing with the Democrats. Among the surprises was that the Democrats were able to win Senate seats in states that were long expected to go Republican, including Missouri, Indiana, and Montana. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will continue to lead their parties in the chamber.
In the House, the Democrats picked up eight seats, making the party breakdown in the 113th Congress 234 Republicans and 201 Democrats. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are expected to keep their positions in the new Congress.
Two physicians were newly elected to Congress: Ami Bera, M.D. (D-Calif.), and Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-Calif.), after both defeated Republican incumbents. There will be 18 physicians serving in the House come January, 15 Republicans and three Democrats. There are three physicians in the Senate, all Republicans.
APA’s political action committee, APAPAC, contributed more than $300,000 to candidates in the 2012 election cycle, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans in both chambers. Of the candidates supported by APAPAC, 97 percent won their races in November.
With Congress and the White House remaining under the same control as prior to the election, it is difficult to imagine Washington operating more smoothly in the 113th Congress than it did in the last one. While the leaders of both parties are publicly acknowledging the desperate need for bipartisanship, neither side wants to give in. As we are seeing with the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, it appears at press time as if it will take a last-minute deal to avert the consequences of inaction. While reforming Medicare’s sustainable growth rate formula is a top priority for APA and other physician organizations, it is just one of many major issues on a long list Congress must attend to before January.
DGR will continue to advance APA’s legislative agenda in the new Congress, strengthening relationships with key members and educating new members on our issues, specialty, and patients. We will continue to rely on APA members for grassroots action. Members of Congress and their staffs must hear from psychiatrists in the field; there is no one better to deliver our message.
If you are not yet a member of APA’s Grassroots Network, sign up today at http://www.psychiatry.org/. Your participation is vital to our success in the legislative arena. ■