As too many families know, serious mental illness knows no prejudice. Treatment Before Tragedy is committed to a bipartisan position for a bipartisan problem.
We appreciate the work of organizations like Treatment Advocacy Center in trying to promote solutions that cross party lines.
Here is a nonpartisan guide to races to watch during today’s mid-year election:
1. Pennsylvania, 18th District
Earlier this year, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa), introduced a bill, House Resolution 3717, “The Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” that would implement sweeping reforms to America’s broken mental health care system. He is expected to win his seat and retain his position as chairman of the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. The Democratic minority pulled out of support of HR 3717; the subcommittee’s Republican majority is cosponsoring the bill.
With Republican leadership, he will decide whether to put HR 3717 to a vote in the subcommittee. The House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee is the home base for HR 3717. This subcommittee’s makeup will determine the future of HR 3717, which so far hasn’t been moved out of subcommittee, a necessary first step to seeing it get a vote in the House.
2. Arizona, 2nd District
Rep. Ron Barber, an Arizona Democrat, was injured in the tragic shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords by a young man later diagnosed with schizophrenia. After Murphy introduced HR 3717, Barber introduced HR 4574, “Strengthening Mental Health in Our Communities Act of 2014,” with some Democratic HR 3717 co-sponsors pulling their support of HR 3717 and co-sponsoring Barber’s legislation instead. He is expected to have a tough race.
If he loses, his co-sponsors may return to HR 3717. If he wins, there is still some doubt that his bill would be reintroduced in the next Congress. It is perceived as a bill that was introduced to mostly counter HR 3717 as a Democratic alternative.
3. Michigan, 6th District
Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, will watch the House numbers to decide whether to let HR 3717 get voted out of committee. Upton is viewed as someone who doesn’t want his committee perceived as a partisan battleground.
If there is a sweeping House victory, Upton may allow HR 3717 to be voted upon in the subcommittee and then House, where it would most likely be passed by a House Republican majority. The bill wouldn’t have enough time to pass the Senate, but the Republicans could choose to go into the next Congress with a House passage of the bill.
4. Colorado, 1st District
Rep. Dianna DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, holds a key position as “chief deputy whip” and ranking member of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee ranking member. She represents downtown Denver, and her district includes Columbine High School and sits just west of Aurora, Co., both places that saw tragedy from mental illness untreated. She has led key discussions on Medicaid and mental illness treatment. She has been an advocate of positions promoted by “consumer rights” groups.
5. Texas, 30th District
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat, is a key co-sponsor of HR 3717. She is a former psychiatric nurse who understands clearly the issues of families dealing with mental health crisis. She is expected to win. She is key to bipartisan passage of HR 3717.
6. The Law Enforcement Caucus
This is a key caucus that could help passage of HR 3717. It includes dozens of members, such as Republican Rep. Dave Reichart of the 8th congressional district of Washington state, Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell of the 9th congressional district of New Jersey and Republican Rep. Richard Nugent of the 11th congressional district of Florida. All three are expected to win. Nugent is a former sheriff and key sponsor of mental health courts legislation.
7. The House
CNN reports that Republicans are expected to win more seats in the House. According to Congress.gov, an important one-stop shop for legislative data, HR 3717 has 108 co-sponsors, of which 72 co-sponsors are Republican and 36 co-sponsors are Democratic. If the Republicans win more seats in the House, that may push HR 3717 out of the House and to the Senate.
The question of the day is: Will the Republicans win the Senate? If the Republicans win the Senate, HR 3717 is expected to have more chances of passing the Senate, because of the nature of partisan politics. Looking down the road, the question will be whether bills pass Congress but get vetoed by President Obama.
What we hope is that the very bipartisan issue of mental illness will win a bipartisan solution.
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