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Texas Congressman: More Doctors Needed in Congress

Published Monday, September 29, 2014 7:00 am
by Matt Fuller - Roll Call

Rep. Michael C. Burgess has a new goal: Bring more doctors to Congress.

Burgess, who is a doctor himself, is redirecting his Lone Star Leadership PAC to focus on helping doctors — and other health care professionals, such as nurses and hospital administrators, Burgess half-begrudgingly notes — become lawmakers.

Burgess told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday doctors need to take on a bigger role in health care policy decisions.

“Not only do they not have a seat at the table, they’re not even in the room,” Burgess said. “And they don’t even understand that they need to be in the room.”

To that end, the Texas Republican has launched what he is calling the “STAT Initiative.” (The name, he said, is meant to “imply the immediacy.”)

While the Texas Republican notes the PAC will have a larger impact in 2016, its website already lists 24 candidates the initiative is endorsing — up from 11 earlier in the afternoon — and it has already raised more than $300,000 this cycle.

“So it’s real, and it’s just starting,” he said.

While the initiative initially seems mostly focused on helping doctors currently in Congress get re-elected, Burgess promises the PAC will take an active role in recruiting and helping candidates. He also notes that he is “not bound by some of the same roles” that prevent the National Republican Congressional Committee from getting involved in GOP primaries. “I don’t have those constraints on me,” he said.

Burgess stressed that the PAC’s overall goal is helping to bring more doctors to Congress, but he acknowledged that the PAC may also allow him to play more of a leadership role in shaping the health care debate on the Hill.

And that has fellow Texas Republican Pete Sessions, the chairman of the Rules Committee of which Burgess is a member, quite excited.

Sessions was a two-term chairman of the NRCC, so he’s all-too-familiar with the struggles of bringing new Republicans to Congress. But he seemed to think people ought to be excited about Burgess playing a larger role.

After pouring on the praise for his fellow Texan — “Mike Burgess is one of the most talented, intelligent, articulate members of Congress”; “He literally has become a star”; “He reads the bills before he votes on them!” — Sessions said the doctors PAC would give Burgess an avenue to recruit people who “openly support his ideas.”

“He’s had a lot of good ones,” Sessions said, pointing to Burgess’ work on medical malpractice legislation.

While Sessions thought the PAC would help Burgess get the attention of senior GOP leaders — “The speaker is pleasantly surprised at how awesome Mike Burgess is,” Sessions said — he didn’t think that was Burgess’ intent.

“Mike is not interested in climbing some ladder, he’s interested in getting something done,” he said.

Whatever his intent, the PAC could be a political force in the future.

Emily Cahn contributed to this report.

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