This year, National Journal‘s Women in Washington list focuses on women who exercise powerful influence in five policy areas: energy, health care, technology, defense, and education.
Sylvia Mathews Burwell (Alex Wong/Getty Images)Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Health and Human Services Secretary
Burwell, previously director of the White House budget office, recently took Kathleen Sebelius’s place as head of HHS. She is popular on Capitol Hill and has a reputation as a skilled manager. She’ll need those skills as she guides the Affordable Care Act into its second year while keeping the rest of the department humming. Burwell has already taken steps to reorganize HHS, adding new positions with direct oversight of the insurance exchanges.
Marilyn Tavenner, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator
With direct responsibility for Medicare, Medicaid, and most of Obamacare, Tavenner is on the hook for some of the most controversial decisions in health care, from cuts in providers’ Medicare payments to rebuilding the ACA’s enrollment system. Tavenner, like Burwell, came into the job with strong bipartisan support and largely avoided any blame for HealthCare.gov’s rocky rollout. But CMS has come under fire from Republicans over proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage, and the agency is still sorting through a backlog of incomplete Medicaid enrollments.
Jeanne Lambrew, Deputy Assistant to the President for Health Policy
Lambrew, who has a background in academia, is President Obama’s top health policy adviser and has provided a steady hand on the issue since the early days of the administration. She is deeply involved in the nitty-gritty of ACA implementation and will have Obama’s ear in the next big front in the health care debate: cost control.
Karen Ignagni, President and CEO, America’s Health Insurance Plans
As the health insurance industry’s top representative in Washington, Ignagni has had an intense half-decade, having guided AHIP through the debate over the Affordable Care Act. During the botched debut of HealthCare.gov, insurers ended up doing most of the work the website was supposed to do, thus winning credibility as the protectors of Obamacare. Ignagni’s next challenge: what’s shaping up to be an all-out war between her industry and pharmaceutical companies over the high cost of prescription drugs.
Cecile Richards (Richard A. Bloom)Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood
Richards is undoubtedly one of the most powerful women in Democratic politics, and her status keeps growing amid flare-ups ranging from Todd Akin to the Supreme Court’s ruling limiting Obamacare’s contraception mandate. She leads Planned Parenthood’s day-to-day operations as well as its political arm, putting her squarely at the intersection of health care policy and politics.
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"On Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Eric Swalwell, (D-Calif.), a Democrat on the House intelligence committee, and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the senior Democrat on the House government oversight committee, announced they were introducing legislation to create a bipartisan commission to investigate any attempt by the Russian government or persons in Russia to interfere with the recent US election. The commission they propose is modeled on the widely-praised 9/11 Commission."
"Two Colorado presidential electors Tuesday filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging a state law that requires them to vote for the winner of the state’s popular vote," in this case Hillary Clinton. They say they want to "vote for a third-party candidate to keep Trump from receiving 270 electoral votes," and work with other faithless electors around the country to "shift their Democratic votes to a consensus pick."