Republican leaders divvied up committee assignments last week, packing the panels overseeing healthcare legislation with conservatives.
In the House, GOP leaders gave a majority of the most coveted committee assignments to freshman members, many of whom won their seats on conservative platforms. Across the Capitol, Senate Republicans were poised to fill the vacant slots on the Finance Committee with conservative members, such as Sens. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) and Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.).
The moves mean the committees with direct control over healthcare, including the House Ways and Means, House Commerce and Senate Finance, are likely to handle healthcare bills much differently than the last Congress.
"I don't have the slightest idea where we are going to get support for fighting Medicare cuts on these committees," said one healthcare provider lobbyist, who asked not to be identified. "Most of the new members have not exactly been our biggest fans in the past."
The committee with the most turnover is House Commerce (formerly Energy and Commerce), where nine of 10 open Republican seats will be filled by freshman members. The Senate Finance Committee will have five new Republican members.