1. McKeon, Erin
  2. Roit, Sheila M. RN
  3. Zimmerman, Kim


How will the 2000 vote affect health care?


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Nursing's voice was loud and clear during the recent congressional elections-86% of the candidates endorsed by the American Nurses Association Political Action Committee (ANA-PAC) were elected to the 107th Congress. All of the candidates strongly advocate nursing issues and patients' rights, and they include three nurses who were reelected to the U.S. House of Representatives: Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), and Representative Lois Capps (D-CA). While nurse candidate Gerrie Schipske (D), who ran in California's 38th District, lost by a slim margin to the incumbent, her race raised visibility of nursing's issues among voters in the area.


In the Senate, several ANA-PAC-endorsed candidates who have long supported health care and nursing issues won key races. The freshman senators include Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and the late Governor Mel Carnahan (D-MO). (Jean Carnahan, Governor Carnahan's wife, has been an ardent supporter of nursing and has been appointed to her husband's Senate seat by Missouri's governor, Roger B. Wilson.)



Despite the ANA-PAC's success in assisting nurse-championing candidates to accede to congressional office, the 107th Congress will present challenges to nursing. The November 7 election left the presidency undecided until December 13 and the House and Senate nearly equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, with the latter holding a slim majority. The gridlock that has often immobilized the last two Congresses is expected to persist. Although minor pieces of legislation may be passed into law, extensive proposals that traditionally have been politically charged, such as the comprehensive reform of Medicare and the privatization of social security, could fall victim to partisan politics.


"We need to work with both parties in a meaningful way to address issues of concern to the profession: safe staffing, control of overtime practices, health and safety initiatives, access to care, quality of care, reduction of health care errors, support for advanced practice nursing, and adequate reimbursement to support nursing care in all settings," said ANA president Mary E. Foley, MS, RN.



The chairpeople of the major Congressional health and labor committees also could influence the development and passage of legislation. Representative Nancy L. Johnson (R-CT), a moderate in social issues, and Representative Jim McCrery (R-LA), who has tended to be conservative, are under consideration to chair the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, which traditionally has spearheaded efforts to promote Medicare issues. Another group to watch is the Commerce Committee, which may become more active in health care issues after the retirement of its chairman, Representative Tom Bliley (R-VA).


The Education and Workforce Committee also will experience major changes. The Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chairman, Representative Cass Ballenger (R-NC), the principal architect of the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act that became law last year, will step down because of term limits. Representative Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) and Representative Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC) are likely candidates for her replacement. Representative John A. Boehner (R-OH), chairman of the Employer/Employee Relations Subcommittee, is seeking the full chairmanship of the Education and Workforce Committee. Representative Boehner has been active in health care issues, serving as a conferee in managed care reform negotiations in the Senate.


On the Senate side, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), a strong proponent of rural health issues, will be the minority leader. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), a moderate who has championed nursing's concerns, will chair the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare, Medicaid, taxes, and social security. The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which has jurisdiction over broad health policies, such as managed care reforms, will continue to be headed by Senators James M. Jeffords (R-VT) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), who have generally supported nursing and patients' rights.