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News & Press: Government Affairs News

Hatch to Resign Setting up Race for Influential Healthcare Committee

Wednesday, January 3, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Bradley Coffey, MA, AAOE Government Affairs
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Washington, DC - Republican Utah Senator Orrin Hatch announced January 2 that he would retire following the 2018 elections. His retirement not only sets up a potentially divisive primary in Utah but also a race to replace him on the influential Committee on Finance which has jurisdiction over the Medicare program. Hatch began his Chairmanship of the committee in 2015 after Republicans swept into the majority in the 2014 elections.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is next in line for the chairmanship in the Republican caucus having served in the position from 2003 to 2006 giving him two more years in his allowed time as Chair of the committee (Senate Republicans limit their chairmanships for each committee to six years). Grassley, however, is currently serving as Chair of the powerful Judiciary Committee and may not wish to relinquish that position.

If Grassley were to pass on assuming his old chairmanship, The Washington Post reports that Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) would likely get the nod from the caucus to assume the chairmanship. Crapo is currently chair of the Senate Banking Committee and poised to pass a sweeping Wall Street deregulation package in early 2018 which would allow him his pick of committee chairmanships. Crapo is also known for being more conciliatory than Grassley is in his dealings with special interest groups. Grassley was known for being more confrontational with healthcare groups during his tenure as Chair of the Finance Committee, particularly those in the pharmaceutical industry.

Regardless of who takes Hatch's place, the Finance Committee will be losing the longest serving member of the Senate, an institution that has historically been steeped in comity and tradition. With the attitudes of policymakers changing from one of common-cause to adversarial, Hatch's moderating influence will be missed. This will be particularly true if Senate Republicans maintain their majorities in the House and Senate following the midterm elections in November and make another go at healthcare reform in 2019.


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