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Which House Democrats Will Lead Healthcare Policy in New Congress?

Analysis  |  By Jack O'Brien  
   November 14, 2018

As Democrats take control of the House, they will be voting on who will be their Speaker and who will lead key health committees for the first time since 2010.

House Democrats, fresh off reclaiming control of the lower chamber of Congress, are now poised to vote on majority leadership positions which will have great influence over the future of healthcare policy at the national level.

The Democratic caucus will vote on November 28 to decide who will lead the House and its various committees, including most notably the House Health, Energy, and Commerce Committee. 

Most focus has remained on House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and whether she can reclaim her role as Speaker of the House, a position she held from 2007 to 2011. 

HealthLeaders has included a breakdown of where her bid for speakership stands and who is in line to steer committees addressing the future of the ACA, prescription drug prices, and the opioid epidemic.

Pelosi as House Speaker again?

Unlike other congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, Pelosi faces a potential challenge to her post from disgruntled progressives in the party who are demanding a new head to lead the House.

Several Democratic rank-and-file members are slated to release a signed letter announcing that Pelosi does not have enough votes to win back the speakership, ABC News reported Wednesday.

Opponents of Pelosi's bid have not announced a challenger or proxy candidate but are demanding "new blood" in the House's Democratic leadership.

Related: The Healthcare Leaders Elected in the 2018 Midterms

If Pelosi is elected Speaker once again, she is expected to take on major pharmaceutical companies with an aggressive drug pricing agenda that Stat News called the industry's 'come to Jesus moment.'

Given that Pelosi played a major role in securing the passage of the ACA, drug pricing reform is being targeted as a topic that could generate potential bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. 

Pallone likely as HEC chairman

In replacing Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., the current chairman of the House Health, Energy, and Commerce Committee (HEC), Democrats will likely choose Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., who has served in Congress since 1993. 

Like Pelosi, Pallone played a large role in passing the ACA in 2010, and is interested in focusing his chairmanship on bolstering elements of the landmark healthcare law that have been challenged in recent years by congressional Republicans and the Trump administration.

Pallone, who is unlikely to face a challenger to his chairmanship bid, has also indicated that one of the central goals of his leadership will be working to lower prescription drug prices.

Eshoo aims to take over HEC Health subcommittee 

Rep. Diana DeGette, who was presumed to be in line for leading the HEC's Health subcommittee, will instead challenge longtime Democratic Whip Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C. for the position he has held since 2006.

In doing so, DeGette has provided an opening to lead the influential subcomittee dealing with health programs, health IT infrastructure, and prescription drug pricing.

Two days after DeGette's announcement, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., released a statement indicating that she will seeking to lead the subcommittee when the new conference convenes.

Eshoo, who has been in Congress since 1993, was criticized throughout her most recent campaign for accepting contributions from the prescription drug industry

Patients for Affordable Drugs Action spent $500,000 on ads that critiqued Eshoo's legislative record and the campaign support she has received from drug markers over more than two decades.

Interestingly, Eshoo was defeated by Pallone in 2014 for the position of ranking member on the HEC, despite receiving public support from Pelosi. 

Jack O'Brien is the Content Team Lead and Finance Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


All eyes are on the leadership elections in the House, which the Democrats regain control of for the first time since 2010.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi is expected to be win back her speakership, but not without an intra-party fight.

Two longtime Democratic members are in line to lead the Health, Energy, and Commerce Committee as well as its Health subcommittee.

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