2010 election wrap-up

An analysis of the 2010 election and what it may mean for APAPO’s legislative advocacy

by Government Relations Staff

November 18, 2010 — A dramatic shift of independent voters led to control of the U.S. House of Representatives by the Republican Party in the November 2 election. A gain of more than 60 seats will give Republicans at least 239 seats to the Democrats’ 187. As of November 9, nine contests remain too close to call. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who has spearheaded passage of bills such as the Wellstone-Domenici Mental Health Parity Act and the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (PPACA) — both actively backed by psychology- will lose enormous power when relegated to the minority.

The incoming Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH), will head a party caucus buoyed by the largest freshman class of House Republicans since 1938. Many campaigned on platforms of reducing deficit spending and by promising to repeal and replace PPACA. The new House leadership is reported to be preparing legislation to repeal PPACA and block funding to implement the law, as well as preparing single-issue bills attacking the individual mandate, employer mandate and rules on how states are to set up health insurance exchanges in 2014. Pundits predict that any such House-passed bills will be stopped in the Senate or vetoed by President Obama.

Republicans controlled the House from 1995 through 2006. The last Speaker in that period, Dennis Hastert of Illinois, thwarted many progressive bills that had majority support, including the mental health parity legislation, because they did not have majority support from all House Republicans.

There are promising signs that Speaker Boehner will not impose that restriction. He has said in interviews before and since the November 2 election that he wishes to preserve the normal committee deliberation process. In attempting to draw a contrast to the leadership style of Speaker Pelosi, Boehner asserts that bills will not be written in the Speaker's office- bypassing the committees of jurisdiction- and then imposed on the membership.

“We must expand contacts and relationships with Republican members of key committees that determine psychology's place in Medicare and the insurance system,” said APA Practice Organization’s (APAPO) Assistant Executive Director for Government Relations Marilyn Richmond, JD. She noted that through direct lobbying, grassroots contact and political giving, psychology already knows the Republicans who will be taking the chairman's gavel at the Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce committees. Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) will become Ways & Means chairman. Energy & Commerce will be headed by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) or Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL). The current top Republican, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), is term limited but will remain a committee member.
The two psychologists seeking reelection to the House won easily. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) will now have more influence on the Commerce Health Subcommittee. Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), who won a special election in 2009, will return for a full term. She will again sit on the Education & Labor Committee, which has jurisdiction over ERISA and employer-provided health insurance. The third psychologist in the House, Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA), retired after serving 12 years.

APAPO’s Government Relations staff expressed regret at the defeat of psychology supporters such as Reps. Earl
Pomeroy (D-ND) and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR).

Senate Outlook

In the November 2 election Democrats held control of the Senate, with the partisan balance moving from 59 Democrats and 41 Republicans to 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans. Two independents caucus with the Democrats.

“We are grateful for the reelection of Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), who as Majority Leader has actively supported psychology's priority legislation,” said APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Katherine C. Nordal, PhD. Returning Senators who are supported by psychology include Patty Murray (D-WA) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). As Senate Health Committee members, both were key advocates for including prevention services and mental health benefits at parity in health reform legislation and for integrating mental health with primary care.

Psychology supported a moderate Republican who has helped with parity, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. She appears to have won reelection in a write-in campaign after being defeated by a tea party conservative in the Republican primary. If certified the winner, she will be the first person to win a Senate seat by write-in since Strom Thurmond of South Carolina in 1954.

The Finance Committee, which is the key committee with jurisdiction over Medicare, will have a new ranking Republican due to term limits on Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA). He will be replaced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who has supported some of psychology’s legislative priorities. Hatch helped pass mental health parity and the restoration of Medicare psychotherapy dollars cut by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Five Year Review. However, he opposed the health care reform legislation in 2009-10.  Hatch is up for election in 2012, leading some pundits to predict that he will be outspokenly conservative in order to avoid a challenge from the ideological right, which succeeded in defeating his colleague Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) in a 2010 party convention.

Such speculation about a conservative tilt is also heard about Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) as she too faces reelection in 2012. Snowe, a visible centrist on the Finance Committee, has championed several issues for psychology, including parity and adding psychologists to the Medicare definition of physician

Seven of the remaining 12 Finance Committee Democrats are on the ballot in 2012, several in states where their Democratic colleagues were defeated in this 2010 midterm election. The committee will continue to be chaired by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), who is regarded as a champion for psychologists.

Psychologist Governor Defeated

The first psychologist to be elected to statewide office, Governor Ted Strickland (D-OH), lost his race for reelection in Ohio. Prior to winning the governorship he was the first psychologist ever elected to Congress.