A Healthy Debate on the Hill

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Majority Leader McConnell briefs reporters on GOP Healthcare efforts

This past week has been full of legislative drama on Capitol Hill. For anyone not following the major network coverage of events recently, the GOP Senate healthcare bill did not receive enough support from Republican Senators to pass a vote, so Majority Leader McConnell pulled the bill from consideration. Even though the Republicans hold 52 out of 100 seats in the Senate, and Senator McConnell only needed 50 votes (with Vice President Pence having the constitutional authority to cast a tie breaking vote, which he would in this scenario), too many GOP Senators stated they would not vote for this bill if it was brought to the floor. Why would the majority party in the Senate fail to garner enough votes, even if they had two more seats than they needed?

This is because of the incredible complexity of healthcare policy across the country. Since each state has different needs, constituencies, preferences, cultures, and histories, the Senators they elect every six years are some reflection of this. Therefore, Senators from the same political parties do not necessarily have ideologies that neatly align. There are liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats on certain policy areas. For example, a Democrat from Vermont will likely have very different opinions on fiscal policy than a Democrat from Arkansas. In the case of healthcare, Senator Murkowski of Alaska views the proposed cuts to Medicaid that were included in the healthcare bill negatively given the high number of Alaskans that are currently on Medicaid. The Medicaid portion of the bill was one of the primary reasons for Republican Senators defecting from Sen McConnell’s bill, since it would be to a certain extent politically damaging for their reelection bids, but especially because of the impact those cuts would have on the citizens they represent.

To make matters more complicated for Majority Leader McConnell, multiple GOP Senators have also opposed his new initiative to bring a repeal-only bill to the floor for a vote this Monday. This bill is very similar to the legislation that the Senate passed in 2015 to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which was vetoed by President Obama. The Senators that are opposed to this now repeal-only, rather than repeal-and-replace, are not comfortable with repealing the healthcare law without a viable replacement ready to go. This puts the GOP in a tough spot, given that they campaigned for nearly 7 years on repealing the act commonly known as Obamacare. In order to follow through on that promise, Sen McConnell is eager to bring a repeal bill to the floor, but to get to that point he will need 50 votes. With the stated opposition already from multiple Senators to even bring this to the floor, the troubles for Sen McConnell grow.

Throughout this process, Senators can offer amendments to the bill that offer new and fresh ideas of what direction to take healthcare policy. Senators Graham and Cassidy, for example, are offering ideas to empower statehouses around the country to come up with custom healthcare models that work best in their states. There is also the Cruz Amendment, offered of course by Senator Cruz, that allows insurance companies to offer more affordable plans, with less coverage, to individuals with lower risk of needing care.

There will be many more twists in the healthcare saga, but my hope is that the final result will ultimately have a positive impact on our nation.

It Wouldn’t be Politics Without Protests

There is never a dull day on Capitol Hill. As the Senate GOP rolled out its healthcare plan, known as the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017”, the halls of congress were buzzing with protests. Most were against the bill, although a small few were in favor. In dramatic fashion, concerned citizens gathered in front of Majority Leader Sen McConnell’s office in the Russell Senate Building to make their voices heard. They blocked the hallway with about 25 wheelchaired protesters who were worried about losing medicare coverage under the Republican bill. Since Senator McConnell’s office is a floor below mine, I needed to see the action up close.

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Protesters are removed from Sen McConnell’s office by the US Capitol Police

One of the best parts of working on Capitol Hill is being witness to some outrageous events, and some that could end up shaping history. Hearings before various committees have the potential to change the political winds in DC, and across the country, through testimonies such as former FBI director James Comey’s. I was also right down the hall when intelligence officials testified that the Russian government was involved in meddling in the US election process.

So far this internship could not be more ideal for where I want to be professionally. And of course, I have Dickinson to thank for not only providing the funds so I can live and eat, but also the professional development atmosphere that has been fostered inside and outside the classroom. The professors in the International Studies department, which is my major, go to the extra effort of making sure their lectures provoke critical thinking that us students take with us to the real world. Outside the classroom, Dickinson’s alumni network is lively and effective, and it is thanks to a recent alumnus that I received an offer for this internship. So it is safe to say I would not be here if it was not for the connections I made through Dickinson’s network.

Working in the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee is the ideal platform for my personal job search. Not only is Capitol Hill the Mecca of American politics, but working in a committee that is focused on helping businesses succeed in America means I also have exposure to the private sector. Moving forward, many career paths have been opened up, which is also due to the fact that I have taken every opportunity possible to meet new people, some just starting out in their careers, and others who are quite experienced. I am extremely lucky to be on track to fulfill my summer goals of opening up career options, some new ones as well that I was not aware of, and meeting career professionals. My main interest of US foreign policy still persists as my north star for my career ahead.

While I have been very focused on my daily work, a breath of fresh air outside of work is a must for anyone working full time. There is so much to do in DC, from free museums to spacious arboretums. Each neighborhood of DC has a unique style for the most part, whether it’s the structure of the buildings or the choices of foods from around the world. If anyone says they are bored in DC, they are not to be trusted!

So far my summer has been very rewarding, and I am excited for what next week has in store. In politics, as in life, everything can change in a moment’s notice!