One key committee will see some changes if Republicans win the Senate Tuesday.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) deals with a vast range of policy areas centered on health care, education, employment and retirement. Which party controls it is very important to business interests and labor unions.
With a Republican majority, the chairmanship would likely flip from liberal Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin — a staunch union ally who is retiring — to Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, the current ranking member.
A Senate spokeswoman for HELP said if Alexander became chairman, he will focus on education and healthcare, especially Obamacare.
The spokeswoman told The Daily Caller News Foundation, “Senator Alexander’s priorities for next year, if he is elected by his peers to lead the HELP committee as Ranking Member or chairman, are: to fix No Child Left Behind by returning decisions about how to educate students back to parents and teachers who know best.”
The spokeswoman went onto say, “Reauthorize the Higher Education Act and reduce regulations that are harming colleges and universities, replace ObamaCare with step by step reforms that restore freedom and choice and reduce the cost of health care, and reform the National Labor Relations Board to ensure it functions as umpire rather than advocate.”
A focus on health care is exactly what Tarren Bragdon hopes will happen if Republicans gain control of the committee. Bragdon is the current president and chief executive officer at the Foundation for Government Accountability.
“The HELP committee should focus on two things,” Bragdon told TheDCNF, “stop killing jobs and bankrupting states.”
Bragdon added that one of the bigger polices killing jobs that a new Republican controlled committee could focus on is the Obamacare employer mandate.
“It’s creating so much uncertainty for jobs creators,” Bragdon explained. “A big thing they can do is create more certainty.”
By contrast, Harkin has shown his support for Obamacare, with his office stating, “As chair of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Senator Harkin helped to lead passage of the ACA and authored the law’s many prevention provisions.”
One of the largest national labor unions, the AFL-CIO, has also been a huge advocates for Obamacare, stating, “The historic Affordable Care Act (ACA) puts the country on the path toward quality, affordable health care for all Americans.”
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has also been a huge advocate for health care overhaul, with the Chairman of its Nurse Alliance group Dian Palmer stating, “Above all, we want to let our patients and communities know that the law is working, in spite of the fact that extremist Republicans continue to vote to try repeal it.”
Sen. Alexander on the other hand has expressed his opposition and concerns with Obamacare like many other Republicans, “Companies used to be able to offer health care that met employees’ needs and budgets, but ObamaCare took away choices and increased costs, forcing many hard-working Americans to lose their plans.”
A spokesman for another Republican member of the committee, Sen. Michael B. Enzi, told TheDCNF, “He hopes to fix our broken health care system, address education issues like No Child Left Behind, and work on pension and labor issues.”
He added, “Senator Enzi really hopes there is a change in how the Senate is managed because there has been no real life for legislation from either party. The majority leader has filled the tree more than any leader preceding him, ending debate and amendments. Senators have been blocked from representing those who elected them. That is a shame and needs to change for the good of the country.”
The HELP Committee is one of many reasons unions have spent so heavily to preserve a Democratic Senate majority.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Harkin has received $84,430 from labor unions PACs between 2009 and 2014. In contrasts to this, Alexander only received $7,000 from unions during the same time. Harkin isn’t even running for reelection.
The twelve Democratic members of the committee received an average of $321,420 from labor union PACs while the ten Republicans received an average of $27,720.
One Republican member of the committee, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, received no contributions from union PACs whatsoever.
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