KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Republicans Fight Over Energy And Commerce Gavel As They Sharpen Congressional Agenda

Republicans are fighting over the gavel to head the Energy and Commerce committee as their agenda's outline becomes sharper in anticipation of the new session of Congress.

The Center For Public Integrity reports that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been raising millions to "fund a new anti-regulatory campaign." One of the aims is easing the implementation costs of the new health law for insurers and businesses. "The Chamber has created a regulatory advocacy unit run by its top lobbyist, Bruce Josten, to shepherd the program." In addition to raising money from energy and financial companies, "[a]lso targeted are several major health insurers that last year kicked in much of the $86 million that was funneled through America's Health Insurance Plans to the Chamber. That money was spent on a huge but unsuccessful advertising effort to kill health care legislation" (Stone, 12/1).

In the meantime, House speaker-to-be John Boehner is recruiting new GOP governors as key to building a "state-level strategy to pick apart the Obama agenda," Politico reports. Today, "Boehner and the [15] governors will discuss using states to push the repeal of the health care overhaul. More than 20 state attorneys general already have filed lawsuits challenging the law. … But the state-level moves against health care may just be the beginning of a coordinated political effort between the Republican House and GOP governors" (Cohen and Sherman, 12/1).

Some Republicans, however, are fighting among themselves for power positions, Politico reports in a separate story. "Rep. Fred Upton exuded confidence that he'll win the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee after pitching his case to his GOP colleagues Tuesday, but he may have to wrest the gavel – literally – from Rep. Joe Barton." Barton needs a term-limit waiver to keep the chairmanship" (Goode and Bravender, 11/30).

Bloomberg: "The prize is a panel that will play a role in Republican efforts to repeal President Barack Obama's health-care overhaul, block his environmental and energy initiatives and assert authority over issues such as vehicle fuel-economy standards ... Upton went into his meeting with the steering committee carrying articles of support from David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, and other Republicans. Upton said he promised efforts to reduce spending, block regulations that cost jobs and repeal health care reform, either in whole or 'brick by brick'" (Snyder, 11/30).

CQ HealthBeat reports that a preview of those fights came Tuesday as Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Scott Brown, R-Mass., touted their proposal that would allow state officials to request waivers from the health law earlier "if they can show that they have met goals for covering a high percentage of the population. The Wyden-Brown plan would move up the date for waiver requests from 2017 to 2014, when state or regional 'exchange' markets are expected to open. Wyden called the proposal a common-sense way to allow states more flexibility." At the same time, Rep. Michael Burgess also reiterated GOP calls to hold many hearings to grill CMS head Donald Berwick and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over the law, but he called Berwick "one of the smartest people on the planet" (Adams, 11/30).

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