Government lawyers working behind the scenes on the American Health Care Act — House Speaker Paul Ryan’s and President Donald Trump’s proposal to change the Affordable Care Act — have had a long couple of weeks.
On March 6, House Republicans publicly released the long-anticipated bill, which the Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce Committees approved in all-night marathon sessions. The day after, the House Committee on the Budget narrowly voted to move it to the House floor and recommended changes.
With the package of amendments released, the legislation went before the House Committee on Rules in advance of the scheduled vote on Thursday night. And all that happened in just 16 days—a mere 384 hours. Although Ryan, R-Wisconsin, pulled the bill from the House floor vote Thursday afternoon, it is reasonable to imagine that it was yet another all-nighter for House staffers.
“I’m not as busy as my House colleagues, but we’re not just sitting around either,” says Kim Brandt, a Capitol Hill veteran and health care law and policy expert who now serves as chief oversight counsel for the Senate Committee on Finance. “I’m guessing they have had a number of long days and potentially sleepless nights.”
The following is by no means an exhaustive list of congressional attorneys playing a role in the health care legislation efforts, but a sample representing both parties, both chambers and various committees.
Chief Oversight Counsel, Senate Committee on Finance
A native of small-town Ohio, Brandt, 45, is one of the top health care law and policy gurus on the Hill, particularly in the areas of fraud and abuse. Brandt’s career in health care law and policy began in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, where she helped negotiate False Claims Act settlements and draft corporate integrity agreements. From there, she became director of the Medicare Program Integrity Group at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, where she oversaw the integrity of payments and prevention of waste, fraud and abuse relating to various Medicare programs.
In September 2010, Brandt took a break from government work to serve as senior counsel in Alston & Bird’s health care group. But she was back on the Hill just four months later for an opportunity she says was just too good to pass up: chief health care investigative counsel for the Senate Finance Committee, a position she held until December 2012. Shortly thereafter, then-ranking member and now chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, appointed Brandt to her current position.
“I like being able to write laws that make things work more efficiently,” Brandt said in a telephone interview Thursday. “At my job here, I get presented with very complex issues, and it’s fun finding solutions to actually fix things.”
The daughter of a school superintendent, Brandt was exposed to politics early, and has come a long way from refilling the Dum Dum sucker trees in her home state representative’s D.C. office, part of her first job out of college. (The tree is exactly what it sounds like: several of the iconic sphere-shaped lollipops, which are manufactured in Ohio, clustered together to resemble a tree.)
Brandt holds degrees from Valparaiso University, DePaul College of Law, where she specialized in health care law, and George Washington University, where she earned a master’s degree in legislative affairs.
Deputy Staff Director, House Committee on Energy & Commerce
Bloomquist, who is 47 based on published reports, was a partner at Wiley Rein for nearly three years, after which he became deputy general counsel for the Energy & Commerce Committee. In late 2011, then-chairman Fred Upton named Bloomquist general counsel of the committee, noting that “Mike’s quick wit and even demeanor have earned the trust of our committee’s members.”
In August 2015, Bloomquist assumed his current role. In addition to his work as GC on the Energy & Commerce Committee, he previously worked, as GC, with Upton on the 2011 Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. He also worked with the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and in the U.S. Department of the Interior’s office.
Bloomquist holds degrees from Hamilton College, Washington University in St. Louis Law School, where he earned a J.D., and George Washington University Law School, where he earned an LL.M. At Hamilton, from which he graduated in 1991, Bloomquist was a member of the men’s rugby and lacrosse teams, according to a 2012 news report there.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing on Alexander Acosta, the Labor secretary nominee, Wednesday. (Photo: Senate HELP)
Health Policy Director, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), Minority Members
Bath, 42, began his career on Capitol Hill in 2006, following a stint working at a New York law firm and for several campaigns, according to an October 2015 Atlantic magazine profile of the HELP committee’s minority staff.
Bath’s 10-plus years in the federal government largely have been with the HELP committee, where he worked with then-chairman Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, then-chairman Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and now ranking member Patty Murray, D-Washington.
As a staffer for Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, beginning in early 2009, Bath played a role in the passage of the Affordable Care Act, according to a faculty biography on American University Washington College of Law’s website. (He currently does not teach any classes there.) In his current role, Bath is charged with helping Murray with her health care priorities, which include, among other issues, mental health and health information technology, according to the Atlantic profile.
Bath holds degrees from Williams College and Harvard Law School.
General Counsel, House Committee on Energy & Commerce
The Capitol Hill career of Christian, 42, began in 2005, when she served as counsel to the Committee on House Administration. A few months later, she joined the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, where she held various counsel positions for nearly nine years.
During that time, Christian led the committee’s investigation of the troubled rollout of healthcare.gov and the federal loan guarantee to Solyndra Inc., the California solar panel manufacturer that received a $535 million loan guarantee but filed for bankruptcy in 2011. She also handled investigations into medical devices, prescription drugs and car safety.
Christian was named general counsel of the Energy and Commerce Committee in October 2014 and may be spotted during television coverage of committee hearings seated behind chairman Greg Walden.
Christian holds degrees from Ohio University and The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. After law school graduation in 2001, she clerked for a federal district judge in Washington, D.C., before working for two years as an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
General Counsel, House Committee on Ways & Means
Halataei, 39, became general counsel of the Ways and Means Committee chaired by Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, in January 2016. She started out as an associate at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld for a year before becoming counsel to Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio. After two years with Smith, Halataei took a leave of absence and volunteered for a Habitat for Humanity tsunami relief project in Sri Lanka, according to a 2008 profile in POLITICO’s “Committee Insider Series.”
After her few months abroad, Halataei returned to the Hill, serving as counsel for the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, before becoming the committee’s deputy chief of staff, the profile stated. Halataei took this experience to the National Music Publishers’ Association, where as vice president for government affairs, she oversaw all of the legislative and policy matters and served as the lobbying group’s liaison between Congress and federal agencies. When she returned to the Hill in early 2013, it was as GC of the House Judiciary Committee, where she remained until joining the Ways & Means Committee and its largely female staff.
Halataei has previously served on the board of directors for Calvary Women’s Services, a nonprofit organization that provides housing, health, employment and education programs to homeless women in Washington, D.C. She holds degrees from Palm Beach Atlantic University and Georgetown University Law Center.
Legislative Director, Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota
A native of Brookings, South Dakota, Lucas arrived on Capitol Hill in 2007 to work for her home-state senator and hasn’t left his office since.
Lucas, 32, worked her way up from Thune’s staff assistant to his legislative assistant for health care and education policy, a position she held during law school, to health policy counsel, and finally, starting in late 2014, legislative director.
Although Lucas says she originally “fell into Sen. John Thune’s office,” she became interested in health care issues after she “quickly realized it is this fascinating intersection of public policy, economics, psychology and sociology,” according to a profile of Lucas in Politico’s “Emerging Health Care Leaders” series.
A self-described lover of diagramming sentences, hot wings and Indian food, Lucas told Politico that her dream vacation is a “multiweek junket through Cambodia/Vietnam/Thailand.”
Lucas holds degrees from South Dakota State University and Georgetown University Law Center.
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