(December 17, 2014) President Obama has signed into law a $1.1 trillion federal fiscal year (FY) 2015 spending bill passed by the Senate late Saturday night, December 13, by a 56 to 40 vote, averting a government shutdown and continuing the funding of federal agencies and programs for the remainder of FY15. The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015, also known as the “cromnibus,” combines 11 appropriations bills into one, but funds the U.S. Department of Homeland Security separately through a continuing resolution (CR) only until February 27, 2015, setting up a fight with the Administration in the coming months over the future of the nation’s immigration policy when the Republican party will be in control of both chambers. On December 11, the House narrowly approved the funding bill by a vote of 219-206 and passed, by unanimous consent, along with the Senate, a two-day CR to give the Senate further time to debate and vote on the FY15 spending bill.
(November 7, 2014) With the conclusion of the 2014 midterm elections, Republicans expanded their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and captured enough seats in the U.S. Senate to tilt the balance of power in their favor as the new majority party. Republicans gained formerly-held Democratic Senate seats in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia, and maintained seats in Georgia and Kentucky. A runoff in Louisiana will take place on December 6 to determine whether Mary Landrieu returns to the Senate, and in Alaska, Senator Mark Begich (D) is trailing Republican Dan Sullivan, but state election officials are still counting absentee and questioned ballots.
Polling appeared to favor Republicans in the weeks and days leading up to the elections, but the results exceeded projections. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell defeated Alison Lundergan Grimes 56-40% in a race that many pollsters predicted would be much closer. In Colorado, Republican Cory Gardner beat incumbent Mark Udall (D) by a margin of 49-45% - a strong showing in a race that was projected to be close. While a few races are currently undetermined, so far Republicans have picked up seven Senate seats and gained 12 seats in the House. The House balance is 243-181 and the Senate balance is currently 52-45 (presuming the independents continue to caucus with the Democrats).
In the 114th Congress, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) will have retired, and current Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) could potentially take over chairmanship of the committee. Current Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) has also stated his run for Chairman. Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) is expected to retain his position, as is Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Jim McDermott (D-WA). In addition, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) is expected to retain his current position.
In the Senate, re-elected Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is expected to become the Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, following the retirement of long-serving Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) or Bernie Sanders (I-V) may become the Ranking Member. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is expected to become the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance.
View the list of COM Congressional Representation in the 114th Congress that will convene in January 2014. Twelve COMs will have either a new House Member, Senator, or both.
As Congress reconvenes next week to wrap up the congressional year, many issues are outstanding. Either a Continuing Resolution (CR) or an omnibus appropriations bill (or some combination of the two) to fund the federal government through the end of the current fiscal year must be passed. The current CR expires on December 11. Other issues potentially to be considered in the lame duck session include, but are not limited to: additional funding to fight Ebola in West Africa, tax extenders, and the authorization of military force to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
During this time, AACOM will continue to advocate on public policy issues critical to osteopathic medical education. These priorities include strong support for both Medicare-funded graduate medical education (GME) and the Teaching Health Center GME Program; the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and fiscally-responsible solutions to lower medical student debt; and federal funding for physician training and workforce programs that aim to address the country’s health care demands. AACOM looks forward to working closely with the new Congress on behalf of osteopathic medical schools and the students they serve.