How the midterm elections will affect aging policy

by Howard Bedlin

Democrats could pick up as many as 40 new seats, establishing an anticipated 234-201 margin in the House. That means, House Democrats can lose only 16 votes within their party to pass legislation. So, the 20-25 conservative Democrats, also known as “Blue Dogs,” who could represent swing votes, will likely have increased influence in the House.

It is not certain whether current Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will be able to secure the votes needed to be the next House Speaker. Several candidates who won office, as well as several current Democratic members, have said they will not support her.

House Ways and Means Committee: Richard Neal (D-MA) will chair this committee that has jurisdiction over Medicare, Social Security, and tax issues. The chair of the Health Subcommittee will be either Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) or Mike Thompson (D-CA).

House Energy and Commerce Committee: Frank Pallone (D-NJ) will chair this committee that has jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid issues. The Health Subcommittee chair will be Anna Eshoo (D-CA).

Appropriations Committee: The new chair will be Nita Lowey (D-NY), and the chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee will be Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).

Education and Labor Committee: Bobby Scott (D-VA) will be the new chair of this committee, which will oversee the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA) in 2019.

Changes in the Senate

In the Senate, Republicans gained one seat for a margin of 52-48, and they may gain another, pending the outcome of the Mississippi runoff race today. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will continue to be the Senate Majority Leader, with Chuck Schumer (D-NY) continues as Minority Leader. Moderate Republicans such as Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Mitt Romney (R-UT) are expected to be key swing votes.

One important leadership change is that Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will take over as chair of the Senate Finance Committee which has jurisdiction over Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and tax issues, replacing retiring Orrin Hatch (R-UT). The Finance Committee.

With the Democrats in control of the House, fears about key programs being cut are eased. If Republicans had retained control of the House, Senate, and White House, many expected they would continue to try to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and significantly cut and cap Medicaid, which helps about 7 million low-income seniors. There were also fears that Republicans would attempt major cuts to Medicare, OAA and other discretionary appropriations, and potentially Social Security to help pay for the $1.5 trillion increase in the deficit due to last year’s tax cuts.

Leaders, instead, are expected to focus on several key health care issues, including reducing prescription drug costs, Medicare for All proposals, and stabilizing the ACA. Other priorities will likely include climate change, immigration, gun safety, voting rights, and infrastructure, as well as several investigations of the White House.

Some of these bolder House issues have little or no chance of passing the Republican Senate and being signed into law by the president. However, some compromises can be made to gain bipartisan support and move through to final passage.

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