Advocacy Update – January 2023: What Does 2023 Hold for Mito Advocacy?

Year-End Advocacy Success Recap
2022 ended well for UMDF, thanks to the activism of UMDF members, with the final federal funding bill passed and signed by President Biden on December 29th. As mentioned last month, the bill included Department of Defense (DoD) funding for mitochondrial research and solid research dollars for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Also, in the good news department, Congress included legislation to extend telehealth flexibilities through the end of 2024. Consequently, telehealth services may be furnished via telephone with audio/video capabilities; geographic restrictions that barred services to patients in non-rural and non-health shortages are no longer in effect; and patients are allowed to receive services in their homes or other non-clinical locations. Unfortunately, the Medical Nutrition Equity Act did not make it into the final bill, so that will be a significant focus for UMDF advocacy in 2023.

Start of the 118th Congress
The 118th Congress officially began on January 7th when members of Congress were sworn in after Congressman Kevin McCarthy (CA-20) was ultimately elected Speaker of the House following multiple ballots. Conservative opposition from members of the House Freedom Caucus, as well as freshman Republicans, led to the first multiple ballot speaker election since the 63rd Congress in 1923. Congress has now turned its attention to organizing the membership and structure of various committees, and President Biden has been invited to deliver his State of the Union address on February 7th.

Party leadership of the House will have a new look for the 118th Congress. Republicans control the House after four years of a Democratic majority, with a very slim majority. Democrats control the Senate, 51 to 49, after two years at a 50 to 50 split, which means as a practical matter that Vice President Kamala Harris will no longer be needed to cast tie-breaking votes for Democrats’ party-line issues as was required over the past two years. Senate Democrats currently have three caucus members who are independents, with the recent addition of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ). However, these members are still expected to caucus with Senate Democrats.

Leaders and committee chairs in both chambers appear to be poised to pursue their respective agendas; although, in an era of divided government two years ahead of a presidential election, it remains unclear whether they will be able to fully advance these various agendas in the absence of bipartisan, bicameral collaboration. With that said, much time and energy will be spent on reaching an agreement on federal spending against the need to increase the national debt borrowing limit. The President’s budget proposal is expected sometime in late February/early March, and Republicans will be pressing for spending cuts. Protecting research dollars for mitochondrial disease will therefore be high on our agenda.

Despite a divided government, there are areas of bipartisan interest of importance to UMDF members, including provider workforce, mental health programs, Medicaid reform, and public health/pandemic-related measures, including a continued focus on long-term telehealth solutions.

With the 118th Congress underway, UMDF continues to ensure the voice of UMDF members is heard in Washington. UMDF will advocate for programs, funding, and legislation that promote research and education to diagnose, treat, and cure mitochondrial disorders. We will continue to update UMDF members on opportunities to engage their congressional delegation via action alerts and future virtual fly-ins in 2023. Stay tuned!

UMDF Advocacy Committee Adds Public Affairs Expert
Please join us in welcoming Cristina Rue to our UMDF Advocacy Committee. Cristina is a public affairs expert who advises corporate, political, and advocacy clients around the world, including recent work for the Tony Blair Institute in Europe along with several DC-based public affairs firms.