WASHINGTON — One of Washington’s most influential health policymakers, Sen. Lamar Alexander, will not seek reelection in 2020, he announced Monday.
The Tennessee Republican has chaired the powerful Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee since 2015, where he presided over a number of high-profile health care bills, including the 21st Century Cures Act, and the Republican party’s eventually abandoned effort to repeal Obamacare.
Alexander’s departure will ultimately set up a fight for the gavel of that committee, which wages outsized influence on Washington’s health care agenda. Next in line for that position is Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, who already chairs the powerful Senate Budget Committee and would have to relinquish that post to replace Alexander. Behind Enzi is Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina.
“I have gotten up every day thinking that I could help make our state and country a little better, and gone to bed most nights thinking that I have,” Alexander said in the statement announcing his decision. “I will continue to serve with that same spirit during the remaining two years of my term.”
Alexander’s departure is the latest loss for the drug industry, which will lose one of its strongest congressional advocates later this year, when Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) retires.
Though Alexander has held a number of hearings on high drug prices, he has acted as a bulwark against some of the more sweeping, industry-opposed proposals that have been advanced by both his Republican and Democratic colleagues. Alexander received over $365,000 from the pharmaceutical industry since 2013, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.