The Democratic committee chairs in the U.S. Senate for the 118th Congress were confirmed this week.
The committees with jurisdiction over workplace issues that the Association will continue to engage with include:
- Finance: Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR);
- Health, Education, Labor and Pensions: Chair Bernie Sanders (D-VT)
- Judiciary: Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL);
- Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs: Chair Sherrod Brown (D-OH); and
- Commerce, Science and Transportation: Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
No Senate Power-Sharing Agreement: Democrats control the Senate, 51 to 49, after two years of a 50 to 50 split, which means as a practical matter that Vice President Kamala Harris will no longer be needed to cast tie-breaking votes for Democrats’ party-line issues as was required over the past two years. This also means a power-sharing agreement is not needed to determine how power is divided and Democrats are now in a position to move legislation and nominations more quickly through the Senate given these dynamics. However, with a divided government two years ahead of a presidential election, it is not likely that Senate Democrats will be able to advance policy priorities like labor reform in the absence of bipartisan, bicameral collaboration.
Health care affordability a priority: Association members should anticipate committee hearings focused on Democrats’ priority issues, including lower out-of-pocket health care costs, which may put the spotlight on high-deductible health plans and insulin costs. Increasing PBM transparency and eliminating anticompetitive practices will also be in play with several bipartisan bills already introduced. Ensuring the Senate does not move bills that will negatively impact employer health plans will be a priority of the Association. Senator Bernie Sanders, now chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, may also hold hearings on “Medicare for All.”
Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden plans to continue to focus on the pharmaceutical companies’ tax practices. Wyden will also continue to work on expanding access to mental health services and restraining health care costs. Senator Wyden has been critical of some insurance companies for evading a 2008 federal requirement for parity of mental health and physical health benefits.
Chair Cantwell will likely host Commerce, Science and Transportation hearings in support of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulatory action, such as the Commission’s proposed rule to ban noncompete agreements. Similarly, we anticipate that Sherrod Brown will host Banking Committee hearings in support of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regulatory actions to counter oversight efforts in the Republican-majority House. The Judiciary Committee will primarily focus on presidential nominations given the current makeup of the 118th Congress.
Published on: February 3, 2023
Authors: Chatrane Birbal
Topics: Employment Law, Federal Health Care Reform, Transparency, Quality and Cost Containment, Washington Updates
Vice President, Public Policy and Government Relations, HR Policy AssociationContact Chatrane Birbal LinkedIn