Raul Ruiz, MD

AAOS Now

Published 1/1/2013
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Kristin Leighty; Madeleine Lovette

The 113th Congress: More Than Meets the Eye

The 113th Congress, which opened on Jan. 3, included 95 newly elected members—48 Democratic Representatives, 35 Republican Representatives, 8 Democratic Senators, 3 Republican Senators, and 1 Independent Senator. California has more new freshman members than any other state—14, including physicians Raul Ruiz and Ami Bera, both Democrats.


Ami Bera, MD

What’s different?
At first glance, the 113th Congress doesn’t look much different than the 112th—Republicans remain in control of the House and Democrats hold the Senate—but dig a little deeper, and you will find that this Congress looks like no other in history.

For one thing, it’s more diverse than any previous Congress. A record 24 women and 22 minorities were elected, including such rising stars as Harvard Law School professor Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.), war hero Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who won her party’s nomination in a primary upset.

This historic change in demographics is due in part to the 2012 federal redistricting cycle, which generated more open seat races than any election cycle since 1992—another year when a record number of women were elected. The legislative gender gap has narrowed significantly, with women comprising a record 18 percent of the House (79 seats) and 20 percent of the Senate (20 seats).

Furthermore, minorities now hold 19 percent of House seats and 5 percent of Senate seats.

In addition to being more diverse, the 113th Congress is also younger than its predecessor. The average age of representatives is 57 years in the House and 62 years in the Senate; 8.5 percent of House members are younger than age 40.

Professional background
An overwhelming majority of the freshman class has a background in public service. In fact, 61 of the newly elected members have previously held some elected office. Other common professional backgrounds include business and the law. In addition, 12 freshmen have previously served in the military.

Of the 19 physicians in the previous Congress, one (Rep. Ron Paul) retired and one (Rep. Nan Hayworth) lost a bid for re-election. These losses are offset by the additions of Reps. Ruiz and Bera, keeping the number of physicians in Congress at 19. Republican Rep. Charles Boustany, a cardiothoracic surgeon, defeated Rep. Jeff Landry in a run-off election on Dec. 8.

Political makeup
The Senate’s freshman class tilts left with eight Democrats and one Independent likely to caucus with Democrats. However, Republican Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Deb Fischer, and Ted Cruz (Texas), who received support from the Tea Party, are bound to challenge any movement away from the center. Also noteworthy is the fact that 5 of the 12 new members of the Senate were in the House during the last Congress: Tammy Baldwin (Wisc.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Jeff Flake, Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Chris Murphy (Conn.).

Raul Ruiz, MD

With the defeat of several one-term Tea Party Republicans and the amount of turnover in the House, the GOP leadership can be expected to have a stronger hold over incoming Republican freshmen.

New physician members
Ami Bera, MD, managed to defeat Rep. Dan Lungren in a rematch of one of the nation’s most closely watched races in 2010. In 2012, Dr. Bera emerged victorious with a 6,000 vote edge.

Dr. Bera practiced internal medicine before becoming the medical director of care management for Mercy Healthcare Sacramento in 1998. He went on to become Sacramento County’s chief medical officer, and then entered academia as a professor and later as Dean of Admissions at the University of California–Davis Medical School.

Dr. Bera has said that he looks forward to using his experience and voice as a physician to revitalize healthcare discussions in Congress, especially within the Democratic Party. He has said that the Affordable Care Act “is not the direction I would have gone,” but believes the law offers a solid starting point for needed reforms. He does support replacing provisions such as the Independent Payment Advisory Board and finding meaningful solutions to address medical liability costs.

Emergency physician Raul Ruiz, MD, narrowly beat six-term incumbent Rep. Mary Bono Mack in one of the last House races to be called. Dr. Ruiz was raised in Coachella Valley and dreamed of becoming a physician from a young age. After graduating from the University of California–Los Angeles, he attended Harvard Medical School, where he earned his medical degree as well as two Master’s degrees—one in public policy and the other in public health.

In 2007, he returned to California and worked in the emergency department of a local nonprofit hospital. Dr. Ruiz supports strengthening new industries and investing in new sectors of healthcare research, protecting Social Security and Medicare, reducing healthcare costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices, and using electronic record keeping to eliminate expensive duplicate tests.

Political money
The 2012 election cycle saw a record amount of outside spending; millions were spent in Congressional races to help elect candidates. The least expensive Congressional race was won by former Rep. Steve Stockman (R) of Texas, who spent slightly more than $290,000 to return to the House. On the opposite end, the most expensive Congressional race was in Virginia, where $39 million (including outside spending) helped Tim Kaine (D) defeat George Allen for a seat in the Senate. The Massachusetts Senate race was a close second, with $38 million spent to help elect Elizabeth Warren.

The Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (PAC) raised a combined $3,708,271 of PAC hard and soft dollars, enabling it to engage in 252 congressional races. The Orthopaedic PAC also disbursed $3,082,254—more than any other health professional PAC—to elect candidates who understand and support physician issues.

As the 113th Congress gets underway, Orthopaedic PAC members will continue to build and sustain meaningful relationships with legislators, sending a strong, clear message from orthopaedic surgeons to Capitol Hill.

Kristin Leighty is the manager of the Orthopaedic PAC; Madeleine Lovette is the communications specialist in the AAOS office of government relations.