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Capitol Hill Report: Deep in the Heart of Texas: Speaker Ryan and the AAN

January 25, 2016

By Mike Amery, Esq., Senior Legislative Counsel, Federal Affairs

Texas Neurologists Meet with Ryan, House Committee Chairs
At the top of the leadership in the House is the speaker, but after Paul Ryan (R-WI), no group has more influence over what happens in Congress than committee chairmen. In the House, that means the state of Texas runs the show with seven of 23 committees chaired by members of the Texas congressional delegation.

Last week, former AAN Government Relations Committee (GRC) member Sara Austin, MD, FAAN, and current GRC member Eddie Patton, MD, attended a fundraising event in Texas attended by Speaker Ryan and all seven committee chairs from Texas.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sara G. Austin, MD, FAAN, and Eddie L. Patton, MD, MS.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sara G. Austin, MD, FAAN, and Eddie L. Patton, MD, MS.

“It was a great opportunity to meet Speaker Ryan and several other members of Congress from Texas,” said Austin. “We talked with the speaker and with Rep. Kevin Brady, who chairs the Ways & Means Committee, about the state of health care and neurology. They made it clear that they want to see doctors available and patients cared for.”

The event was held at the Austin, TX, home of House Homeland Security Chair Michael McCaul who also welcomed fellow committee chairs Rep. Sessions, Brady, Conaway, Hensarling, Smith, and Thornberry.

Just a week before Drs. Austin and Patton met Speaker Ryan, I had the good fortune of having breakfast with him at a Capitol Hill event with several other medical specialty groups. This happened to be the morning after President Obama's final State of the Union.

After several minutes of commentary about the speech, we switched to the possibility of health care issues being acted on by Congress in 2016. With the election year upon us, Ryan couldn't make any promises about a health care agenda moving, except that he was encouraged that one of the true hurdles of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or “Obamacare” as some call it, was over.

Republicans have faced a great deal of pressure from the party base over not repealing the ACA. In one of the first acts of the second session of the 114th Congress, the House passed a bill that effectively overturned Obamacare. Of course, this was the 63rd time the House had done that since the bill passed in March 2010, but this time it was different. For the first time an identical bill had passed the Senate, sending a repeal bill to the president's desk.

Once the bill got to the Oval Office, the only question for the president was how fast to veto it, and whether to sign the veto with the same pen he signed the ACA into law in the first place. But Ryan and others like Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can finally say, “See, we did it.”

Of course, with the presidential veto the ACA will remain in place through the conclusion of the Obama presidency, but Ryan's goal now is to put together an alternative that Republicans can use as an example of how they will approach health care reform if they regain the White House. Whether you are for or against the ACA, a lot is riding on the outcome of the 2016 elections.

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