Predicted Washington Gridlock ‘Made to Order’ for Lobbyists
With Republicans clinging to a thin majority in Congress and the presidential election between Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R) and Vice President Al Gore still in doubt, many pundits have predicted "near-gridlock" in Washington -- a forecast "made to order" for business lobbyists, the Los Angeles Times reports. For lobbyists, who consider new rules and regulations "the enemy," the projected legislative paralysis offers "no problem at all" and will likely bring a "welcome stability and predictability" over the next few years. "While the election is not necessarily good for America's interests, from a lobbying prospective, it's fine. By and large, as lobbyists, we're trying to stop things," Williams & Jensen lobbyist Jay Velasquez said. Patrick Clary, vice president at the National Association of Manufacturers, added, "The old adage in Washington still holds that, if you bet nothing will happen, in most cases you're going to be right." Still, he warned that a bipartisan coalition could develop around "high- profile" issues, such as managed care reform. "My fear is that even in a Bush administration, on the patients' bill of rights, the trial lawyers and the American Medical Association will run away with the process because of their political clout," Clary said. Most lobbyists predict, however, that the "close division" in Congress would prevent Bush from moving on a Medicare overhaul and stop Gore from delivering a prescription drug benefit under the program. "I don't think anything is going to be done that is beyond the pale," Alan Kranowitz, a lobbyist for the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, said. In the health care industry, however, lobbyists for HMOs, hospitals and nursing homes will continue to "pus[h] hard" for additional government funding, especially increased Medicare reimbursements. "There are things we need from Congress," Chip Kahn, president of the Health Insurance Association of America, said. According to Kranowitz, the health care lobby should expect "little more than scaled back versions" of the candidates' campaign proposals. "You may see a prescription drug benefit, but it may be neither of the ideas that were offered during the campaign," he said (Rubin, Los Angeles Times, 11/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.