The line to get into the Senate Finance Committees much-anticipated health care markup snaked through the hallway of the Hart Senate Office Building on Tuesday. Representatives of a wide array of lobbying organizations filed in to hastily scribble notes that they could send to their clients.
But with much of the day focused on opening statements, many of K Streets big-shot contract lobbyists were nowhere in sight they wouldnt show up until later in the day or even later in the week when the committee plans to dig into the business of amendments that could tip the balance of the bill for or against their clients.
Many of the people filling the seats, in addition to a huge press contingent, were in-house advocates, mid-level and junior lobbyists at firms and even some interns. Groups and companies that were represented included Americas Health Insurance Plans, pharmaceutical firms Merck and Amgen, and insurers United HealthCare and WellPoint, as well as the National Association of Childrens Hospitals and the National Community Pharmacists Association, according to K Street sources at the markup.
Im not a big fan of investing an entire day, said one prominent Democratic lobbyist who showed up Tuesday morning and promptly returned to his downtown office. Its such a frenzy to see and be seen, and I appreciate the value of that, but if youre actually counted on for doing work, you need to be in a place where you can be following things. I feel trapped on the inside, and I can only do so much on the BlackBerry.
Two lobbyists who spent the morning inside the markup said at midday that they planned to return to their offices to watch the rest on C-SPAN.
I learned more in the cab ride back to the office, listening to C-SPAN radio, said one lobbyist. Theres a myth that you have to be there, to be part of the scene.
The scene did attract a large contingent of outside-the-Beltway advocates, including several American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network volunteers who happened to be in town for the groups lobby day.
T.J. Ryan of Idaho Falls, Idaho, and a handful of her fellow volunteers waited in line outside the markup, hoping to get a firsthand look at the action.
I was just really interested to see what was going on, said Ryan, whose grandmother is a cancer survivor. Her group supports more affordable health care, greater access for patients and administrative ease in the system, she said, ticking off the lobby day talking points before having to ditch the line for a meeting on the House side.
Austin, Texas, lobbyist Jim Arnold of Arnold Public Affairs was in town to monitor the markup for many of his clients, including the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Goodwill and hospitals.
Im getting caught up on whats going on and what proposals are being offered, said Arnold, who briefly shook hands with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) as the Senator headed for the markup. My clients have concerns about patient access, insurance coverage and concerns with pre-existing conditions.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.