2012 election: Changes at the margins

The 2012 election returned President Barack Obama to the White House, and the leadership of both houses of Congress remains intact — what has changed?

Seventy-three members in the House and 12 senators retired or lost their seats. These include several members with whom APA has worked on important scientific and program issues. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-N.Y., chair of the Health Subcommittee of the Committee of Veterans Affairs, had pushed hard for more research and better diagnosis and treatment for veterans’ mental health and PTSD. Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., ranking minority member on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, was an expert on Medicare and had a great influence on Medicare law changes of the last 25 years, including those in the Affordable Care Act. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., championed a variety of issues important to APA by chairing or vice-chairing caucuses on addiction treatment and recovery, prescription drug abuse and youth drug prevention.

Among the members who were less supportive of many of APA’s priorities, Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, lost his bid for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Rep. Rehberg was behind the provision in the fiscal year 2013 bill reported by the Appropriations Committee last summer that disallowed funding of health economics research at the NIH, believing that research was tied to the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, whom many psychologists remember for her 2006 attack on the behavioral and social sciences at the National Science Foundation, was eventually convinced to withdraw her attack but never quite became a friend to psychology. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., was the primary sponsor of the Great Ape Protection Act, which would prohibit most behavioral research with great apes.

Congressional committees important to research will see many more changes in leadership, but many of those announcements won’t come until December or January. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., is said to be a contender for chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., may become ranking member of both the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Next month’s issue of the APA Science Policy News will profile some of the incoming freshmen members of Congress.