What’s brewing in the 112th Congress
In the 2 months or so since its members were sworn in, the 112th Congress is already moving forward on its new legislative agenda. Once again, healthcare reform is a hot topic. In January, the House voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, and in early February a repeal amendment was defeated in the Senate. Although full repeal is unlikely to succeed, many view these votes as the opening salvos in a larger campaign by healthcare-reform opponents to undermine the legislation by defunding or repealing key programs. The American Nurses Association (ANA) has developed an online guide, Health Care Reform Headquarters, to help keep nurses informed of the latest developments. You can access the site at http://www.rnaction.org/site/PageServer?pagename=nstat_take_action_healthcare_reform.
As with every new Congress, all bills not enacted during the previous session—including those on key nursing issues—will have to be reintroduced and will have new bill numbers and, in some cases, new sponsors. Already, Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) has taken the lead and reintroduced the Medicaid Advanced Practice Nurses and Physician Assistants Access Act (S. 56) and the Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act (S. 58), with companion bills expected soon in the House.
The historic number of freshmen—including four nurses—in the 112th Congress presents a unique opportunity for ANA to build new relationships. Tough decisions on issues that affect our profession and patients lie ahead, and a great deal is at stake. ANA urges you to reach out to your congressional representatives now to educate them about the nursing profession and ask them to support key legislation. Even if your elected representatives are congressional veterans, the start of a new session is a great time to let them know what’s important to you.
As a constituent, remember that your member of Congress wants to hear from you. A recent poll of congressional offices conducted by the nonpartisan Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) found that constituents who make the effort to personally communicate with their elected representatives—whether in person, by phone, or in writing—are more influential than lobbyists and news editors.
You can make your voice heard in many ways: place a call, write a letter or email expressing your view, take part in a town hall meeting, or schedule a meeting when your representative is back in your district. All of these are effective ways to share your concerns and educate legislators and staff. Whatever method you use to contact your elected official, it’s important to share the personal effect that government policies will have on you and your patients. As a nurse, you’re on the front lines of the healthcare system and are in the best position to let members of Congress know where the system is broken and what needs to be done to fix it.
ANA offers online tools at http://www.rnaction.org/site/PageServer?pagename=nstat_homepage to help make communicating even easier:
- We’ve created an activist toolkit packed with resources and information ranging from Capitol Hill basics to tips on how to write letters or set up district meetings. These resources will help you prepare when advocating on behalf of nursing.
- We’ve updated our Take Action page to reflect the agenda before the 112th Congress and the hot-button issues ANA will be working on in the coming months. Be sure to bookmark this page, as we’ll be updating it regularly with information on the issues that are important to you.
- While the 2010 midterm elections may be in the rearview mirror, the 2012 election cycle, including the presidential race, will soon be heating up. Our Election Action Center is your one-stop-shop for election-related information.
These are just a few of the resources ANA has developed to help you be a better advocate for nurses and patients. Remember: When nurses talk, Washington listens!
Jerome Mayer is a senior political action specialist in ANA’s department of government affairs.