The elections in November significantly changed the power structure in Washington, DC. Democrats took control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 2010 securing a 36 vote majority. Republicans expanding their Senate majority by 6, creating “split” Congress. After this type of election, AOTA Federal Affairs looks towards the next Congress from two angles. First, we try to predict what the legislative priorities of the new Congress will be (including what types of legislation have a chance at being signed into law) and second, we examine the status of our champions in Congress, and look towards building new relationships and strengthening existing ones.
116th Congressional Priorities:
While much of the discussion around the new Congress is on investigations and other partisan issues, AOTA believes the new balance may provide real potential for moving bipartisan legislation in 2019/2020. Much of the talk in the halls of Congress is about the need to address more bi-partisan issues such as health care, infrastructure, and care for Veterans. While there will need to be some Congressional action around strengthening the Affordable Care Act insurance marketplaces, there may also be room for smaller legislation aimed at improving health outcomes. Before the election, many key Senators were discussing with us a desire to implement policies that would improve the health of Americans, and to work across the aisle to move this type of legislation. This focus on small bills provides us with the opportunity to promote the Home Health Flexibility Act and occupational therapy’s role in many other areas such as falls prevention, dementia care, and telehealth. Another area of interest for the Senate is to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. We will also closely be monitoring any action related to early childhood education, primary and secondary education, and behavioral health.
116th Congressional Champions:
Several key, Congressional occupational therapy champions lost their races, including Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Erik Paulsen, both sponsors of the therapy cap repeal legislation. But the vast majority of champions from both parties were returned to Congress with 88.5% of AOTPAC-supported candidates winning election. AOTA will also welcome several new champions to the 116th Congress who have already indicated an interest in supporting occupational therapy professionals, while some of our long-time champions are likely to assume significant Congressional Committee leadership responsibilities in 2019.
Our greatest challenge for next year is the number of new faces coming to Congress next year. There are 9 new Senators and at least 93 new Representatives in the House. This means nearly 1 out of 5 Members will be new to AOTA Federal Affairs, but that does not mean they are new to occupational therapy. We need to hear from you if you know or have worked with any of the new Members of Congress. This gives a place from which to start building relationships. We will also need your help in spreading the word about occupational therapy through the AOTA Legislative Action Center. As soon as the new Congress is sworn in on January 3rd, you will be able to write to these new members, to introduce the profession and to advocate for our issues.
Another important way for us to build and maintain relationships with Members of Congress is through the AOTPAC. AOTPAC allows AOTA members to support those Members of Congress who are our champions, and to make sure they stay in Congress. To learn more, please visit the AOTPAC website.
The AOTA Federal Affairs team is looking forward to the new opportunities the next Congress will bring, and building new champions for the profession!
***Do you know any of the incoming Members of Congress either personally, or by their work in your state? Do you have relationships with any current Members of Congress? Let us know by writing to FAD@aota.org ***
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