The larger media narrative of the midterm shake-up in Congress will likely revolve around House Democrats and their approach to President Trump.
However, most of this coverage will focus on issues that do not directly impact people living with or affected by HIV.
We at AIDS United wanted to provide a more tailored preview of the ways in which this new Congress will impact health care, HIV funding, drug pricing and other related issues.
Representative Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) is poised to once again be the speaker of the House. However, Pelosi’s reelection as speaker after an eight-year hiatus is not a certainty. More impactful for the HIV advocacy community could be the selection of a handful of House committee heads.
Representative Frank Pallone (D–N.J.) is expected to chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he will oversee the most expansive set of health care issues in the House, including the 340B Drug Discount Program, which allows some health centers, including Ryan White clinics, to use savings from pharmaceutical discounts to support their programs. 340B will continue to be a hot-button issue, but much of the harmful legislation proposed by the last Congress will be dead on arrival in a Democratic House.
Representative Nita Lowey (D–N.Y.) will likely be named House Committee on Appropriations chair, becoming the first woman to be so named in the committee’s 150-year history, while Representative Rosa DeLauro (D–Conn.) is set to chair the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee; both positions have significant sway in setting funding levels for federal agencies—particularly those that support the Ryan White Program and other HIV care and treatment.
Representative Elijah Cummings (D–Md.) will probably chair the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and will be responsible for handling many of the larger-scale issues mentioned above.
The ACA Finds Relative Safety
After a tumultuous 115th Congress that saw the GOP try everything in its power to torpedo the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the threat of ACA repeal by Congress will be nonexistent over the next two years, thanks to the new Democratic House majority.
However, the ACA’s immunity from attack does not extend to the Trump administration itself, a fact that is not lost on Democratic House leadership. We will likely see a number of efforts from House Democrats to expose the Trump administration’s attempted sabotage of the ACA and implement policies to prevent further sabotage.
Standing Up for Communities
During his first two years in office, it has been difficult for Democrats in Congress to put meaningful checks on President Trump’s repeated attacks on and abuses of immigrant populations and communities of color. In the 116th Congress, Democrats now have the power to call for investigations into the Trump administration’s discriminatory and harmful actions.
In the coming months, expect to see House Democrats launch investigations into both the Trump administration’s systemic abuse and incarceration of immigrant families and its unacceptable response to the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.