Drs. Bera and Benishek both have served as champions for
the ACS legislative agenda, including such issues as repeal and
replacement of the SGR payment formula, medical liability reform,
and repeal of the 96-hour rule for critical access hospitals.
The 2014 elections brought significant chang- es to the composition of the U.S. Congress, which will likely affect health policy in the
coming years. This article summarizes the election results and describes the role that the American College of Surgeons Professional Association
(ACSPA) played in ensuring the re-election of two
surgical champions. It also highlights the legislative priorities of the ACS.
Election night 2014 proved to be a very good one for
the Republican Party. Most dramatically, control of the
Senate flipped from the Democrats to the Republicans,
who now hold 54 seats—still six short of the filibuster-proof majority needed to exert maximum control. Previously, the Democrats held 55 seats when accounting
for the two independents who caucus with them. In
the House, the National Republican Congressional
Committee unexpectedly outperformed the goal of
their “Drive to 245” initiative by gaining a net of 13
seats to build a 247-member conference and secure the
largest Republican majority since 1928.
The implications of this shift are yet to be determined but began to play out early in the first session of
the 114th U.S. Congress, which convened on January 6.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) now has a
more comfortable margin with which to operate, and
Senate leaders have pledged to work more collaboratively with the House, seeking a return to “regular
order” and a restoration of the traditional committee-driven legislative process. For example, House and
Senate Republicans combined their respective caucus
retreats, providing members and leadership of both
chambers with an opportunity to begin the Congress
with strategic collaboration. The Republican Congress
has an opportunity to address critically neglected and
noncontroversial issues, but it will still need to work
with a Democratic President.
Returning as members of Congress are two physicians whose campaigns were actively supported
by the ACSPA’s political action committee (ACSPA-
SurgeonsPAC)—Ami Bera, MD (D-CA), an internist
from the Sacramento area and Dan Benishek, MD,
FACS (R-MI), a general surgeon and a Fellow from
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Drs. Bera and Benishek
both have served as champions for the ACS legislative
agenda, including such issues as repeal and replacement of the sustainable growth rate (SGR) payment
formula, medical liability reform, and repeal of the
96-hour rule for critical access hospitals.
One way the ACSPA-SurgeonsPAC contributed to
the re-election campaign of both legislators is through
what is known as an independent expenditure (IE).
The Code of Federal Regulations defines an IE as a
paid communication that expressly advocates for “the
election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate that
is not made in cooperation, consultation, or concert
with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate,
a candidate’s authorized committee, or their agents,
or a political party committee or its agents.”*
In October 2014, the ACSPA-SurgeonsPAC Board voted to support the expenditure of $100,000 each in IEs for
Representatives Bera and Benishek. For Dr. Bera, the
SurgeonsPAC dollars were used for a radio and direct
mail campaign as part of a larger effort in which other
physician political action committees also participat-ed. For Dr. Benishek, a television ad was produced
and run through local cable providers.
On election night, Dr. Benishek was declared the
winner with 52. 1 percent of the vote. As one of four
ACS Fellows who serve as members of Congress, we
look forward to continuing to work with “Dr. Dan”
and his excellent staff in his third term.
Dr. Bera’s race was much closer. In fact, he actually
trailed his opponent with 49. 8 percent of the vote when
election night closed. Subsequently, with the counting
and inclusion of the mail-in ballots specifically targeted
by the physician community’s IE effort, Dr. Bera overtook his opponent’s slim margin. Two weeks later, on
November 19, 2014, the Associated Press called the election for Dr. Bera with a margin of 1,400 votes. Dr. Bera’s
race for the 7th district proved to be the most expen-
*Federal Election Commission. Coordinated communications and independent expenditures. June 2007 (updated April 2014). Available at: www.
fec.gov/pages/brochures/indexp.shtml. Accessed January 27, 2015.