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On the Hill: House Speaker Elected, Rules Package Next

The Senate last week swore in members and adopted a rules package to govern that chamber. But , but organizing activities on the other side of the Capitol, in the House, did not go as smoothly.

After a dramatic, and at times chaotic, week on the House floor that spanned four days and 15 votes, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was elected speaker Jan. 7, shortly after midnight. The final vote was 216 for McCarthy and 212 for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the Democratic leader, with six Republican members voting present. Members-elect were officially sworn in to the 118th Congress at their seats in the chamber a short time later.

This week, the House will vote on a rules package to establish the process for how legislation progresses through committees and on the chamber floor, among other key aspects of how the House operates. Now that members are sworn in, committee assignments and leadership roles will be forthcoming. Of particular interest to essential hospitals, Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) is expected to chair the House Committee on Ways and Means after the Republican Steering Committee on Monday recommended him for the post.

As part of now-Speaker McCarthy’s concessions to gain the gavel, significant changes were made in the proposed rules package, such as permitting one member to call a motion to vacate the chair. However, many of the concessions made won’t be formally voted on and might never be publicly disclosed. These include reported promises to provide three seats on the Rules Committee to members of the House Freedom Caucus – this is important, as the margin on that committee traditionally is nine majority to four minority members. Thus, with three seats, the Freedom Caucus will hold significant sway over what legislation and amendments are approved for consideration on the House floor. Additionally, restraints on government spending and a commitment to move appropriations bills individually through regular order also are described in the agreement. It is unclear whether lawmakers will adhere to these changes.

Essential Hospital Designation

Last Congress, America’s Essential Hospitals launched an advocacy effort among lawmakers and their staff to underscore the need for essential hospital designation.

Recent media coverage has highlighted the association’s push for essential hospital designation, including a Jan. 6 commentary by association President and CEO Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH, in Becker’s Hospital Review and the lead-off story in Axios Vitals Jan. 9. We look forward to continuing this work in the 118th Congress to help ensure our hospitals have the resources and support they need to fulfill their missions of ensuring access to high-quality health care in at-risk and marginalized communities.

This Week in Congress

The Senate stands in recess to convene for pro forma sessions only with no business conducted through the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

The House is in session this week and will consider a rules package.

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About the Author

Margaret French is the manager of legislative affairs at America's Essential Hospitals.

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