Lame Duck Congressional Session Coming

Big changes expected in massage therapy committees of interest in 2023.

In late September, before recessing for the mid-term elections on November 8, Congress passed a short-term funding bill (a continuing resolution or “CR”), to keep the government operating at current levels until December 16. Massage therapists are likely familiar with the CR process – we have reported on it in the past, since Congress has often failed to pass all the necessary appropriations bills before the start of the next fiscal year on October 1.

Included in this year’s CR is funding for virtually all public health programs, as well as funding for NIH and NCCIH, which covers most massage-related research. We were pleased to see that both the House and Senate reports accompanying the health care bills emphasized issues of particular interest to the massage therapy community.

Congress returns to Washington, DC on November 14 for a ‘lame duck’ session. The first week is typically an organizing week, but Congress returns to town again after Thanksgiving to get down to more serious work. How much will actually get done is an open question right now and will depend on how willing each side is to negotiate.

There are several ‘must pass’ bills, including the CR, and Congress may address many outstanding bills at the end of the year in a large-scale omnibus bill. Or, if major disagreements develop – and if party control has shifted dramatically in the mid-terms – Congress could always enact another short-term funding bill and, in essence, ‘kick the can’ into the next year for the 118th Congress to deliberate over.

Included in the list of items that AMTA is supporting for inclusion in an end of the year bill is the “NOPAIN Act,” which would enhance access to non-opioid pain management and would require a report to Congress on gaps and deficiencies on access to pain management services supported by the HHS Pain Management Task Force. That 2019 report specifically supports massage therapy. If NOPAIN is not passed during the lame duck, it effectively ‘dies’ at the end of this Congress and would have to be reintroduced during the new Congress.

There will be some significant changes on committees of interest to AMTA next year. Even before the midterm races are called, we already know that both the current D Chair and R Ranking Member on the full Senate Appropriations Committee are retiring. Senate retirements by Committee leaders can be expected to set off a tsunami of other changes as leaders shift committees and jockey for new positions of authority. On the Senate HELP (policy issues impacting public health), the Ranking R is retiring, while in the Senate Finance Committee (policy impacting the Medicare and Medicaid programs), several Senators are in races deemed highly competitive.

In the House, we know that 7 Ds and 5 Rs are retiring from the Energy and Commerce Committee (public health programs) and 3 Ds and 1 R are retiring from the Ways and Means Committee (primary jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid).

We will continue to share updates with AMTA members and work together to advocate for the profession.