Members of Congress will return the third week of November for an abbreviated lame duck session - a post-election legislative session during which members convene to wrap up unfinished business before the end of the calendar year. The agenda will be focused on items necessary for consideration before Congress officially adjourns, including federal government spending allocations (federal appropriations) for all government agencies, departments and programs – including the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – two agencies of importance to preeclampsia research and prevention efforts. The start of the new Congressional session will also bring a number of changes that may potentially impact preeclampsia-related government policy:
Women in the 112th (2011-2012) Congress
There are 76 female legislators serving in the House of Representatives in the current Congress. Next January, when we begin the new Congress, the number of women legislators in the House will drop to 73 (50-D, 23-R).
There are currently 17 female Senators in the current Congress, seven of whom ran for reelection this year. Of the seven, five have secured a place in the 112th Congress. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is awaiting the results of the final vote tally. Should she be reelected, the number of female Senators will remain at 17.
Maternal and Child Health Issues
Starting January 1, 2011, the new Congress will include three additional nurses and eight additional doctors. New members of Congress with health care backgrounds represent the following professions: nursing, heart surgeons, anesthesiologists, general surgeons, osteopathic physicians, family practitioners, ophthalmologists and optometrists. In total, there will be 19 members serving in the House of Representatives and five Senators who have health care backgrounds.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, many of the members most active in sponsoring maternal health-related bills will return to Capitol Hill for the 112th Congress. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), who introduced the Gestational Diabetes (GEDI) Act (H.R. 5354) both won reelection. Similarly, Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), the sponsor of the Improvements in Global Maternal and newborn health Outcomes while Maximizing Successes (MOMS) Act (H.R. 5268); Steve Cohen (D-TN), the sponsor of the Nationally Enhancing the Wellbeing of Babies through Outreach and Research Now (NEWBORN) Act (H.R. 3470); and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), the sponsor of the Maximizing Optimal Maternity Services Act (H.R. 5807), won their respective reelection bids. These bills will need to be reintroduced in the new Congress to be considered.
Lamar Alexander (R-TN), sponsor of the Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers who Deliver Infants Early (PREEMIE) act (S. 3906) was not up for reelection during this election cycle and will return to Congress. His lead co-sponsor Christopher Dodd (D-CT) retired from Congress, so Senator Alexander will be working to identify another lead Democratic champion for his legislation, which reauthorizes several programs of importance across federal health agencies.