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Victory and defeat for veterinary profession with 113th Congress
The Veterinary Mobility Act passed, the PAST Act may be done for, student debt legislation will likely be reintroduced, and another DVM joins the U.S. House.
The 113th Congressional session is over. While the veterinary profession cheered passage of the Veterinary Mobility Act this summer, the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA's) hopes for the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act and student debt relief fizzled. Now, the AVMA's Governmental Relations Division will look to next year and what can be accomplished with the next session of Congress.
The waning days of the 2014 lame duck session found PAST Act sponsors Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) calling for "unanimous consent" for the anti-soring bill. The procedure allows the Senate to pass a bill without a full vote by every senator, but as its name implies, there can be no objections. The senators' efforts met a lone Republican who placed an indefinite hold on the bill, stopping the PAST Act in its tracks.
Though the objector was anonymous, AVMA Executive Vice President Ron DeHaven, DVM, MBA, and others have previously made no secret of their belief that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be a roadblock for the bill. Since McConnell will be the Senate majority leader in the next Congress and he supported a counter bill to the PAST Act, the chance of McConnell bringing a reintroduced PAST Act up for a vote next session doesn't look promising. "Given that he supports the alternative bill, the PAST Act is almost guaranteed not to move," Victoria Broehm, communications manager with the AVMA's Governmental Relations Division, told dvm360.
One thing the veterinary community can look to in the next session is the addition of another member of the U.S. House of Representatives with a veterinary degree. Ralph Abraham, MD, DVM, (R-La.) graduated from Louisiana State University's School of Veterinary Medicine in 1980. He worked as a veterinarian in rural northeast Louisiana during the 1980s until enrolling in medical school in 1990. He now works as a general family practitioner and aviation medical examiner. He is a pilot and veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Abraham will join Kurt Schrader, DVM, (D-Ore.) and Ted Yoho, DVM, (R-Fla.) who were both re-elected this year and formed the bipartisan Veterinary Medicine Caucus in the House last year. The caucus saw through the passage of the Veterinary Mobility Act, which amends the Controlled Substances Act to allow veterinarians to transport and dispense medications for pain management, anesthesia and euthanasia as needed to care for patients. The duo also supported the Veterinary Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act and the elimination of the medical device tax introduced by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.