The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions deals with issues surrounding most of the agencies, institutes, and programs of the Department of Health and Human Services, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. Pivotal in policies guiding medical research, preventive health advances, and drug approval, the committee gets three new Democrats who come to the Senate with records of consumer advocacy and support for science, as well as a new ranking Republican.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) will be ranking Republican on this committee, replacing Sen. Mike Enzi who will remain on the committee but is term limited from retaining the leadership role. Alexander has told The Tennessean he looks forward to the spot because his home state “has become a leader in health care and education innovation.” He voted against an amendment last year that would have prohibited pharmaceutical companies from delaying the release of generic drugs. A former Tennessee Governor and an Education Secretary under President George W. Bush, Alexander also is expected to remain on the Appropriations committee and retains a seat on its Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations subcommittee which takes the lead in making annual funding decisions about health and education programs.
Tammy Baldwin (D – WI), was elected to the Senate in November after 14 years in the House where she served on the Committee on Energy and Commerce. During the campaign for her Senate seat she completed Research America’s Your Candidates, Your Health survey, affirming support for, among other issues, increasing funding for medical research, strengthening educational opportunities in the sciences, and prioritizing funding for the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and expanding federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. In Congress, she was a strong supporter of the Ryan White CARE Act and other health programs for vulnerable Americans. In 2010 Baldwin called for and chaired a Congressional hearing drawing attention to Uganda’s proposed anti-gay legislation that included information on its impact on health responses there, and called with the State Department to express strong opposition to the legislation.
Elizabeth Warren (D – MA) elected in November, has been an elementary school speech pathologist, law professor, bankruptcy expert, author, and Assistant to President Obama and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Warren did not respond to the Research America Survey. During her campaign she spoke supportively of women’s access to reproductive health care, and of advancing medical research.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D – CT) elected in November, was previously profiled here, on his assignment to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.