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Hill Climbers: Recalling Other Health Battles

As the House nears action on a health care reform bill, earlier legislative battles can be quickly forgotten in the heat of debate. If you are in search of context, veteran Hill staffers can provide it.

[IMGCAP(1)]Andrew Wimer, the new press secretary for Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), vividly remembers the 2003 battle over Medicare Part D. In fact, in his six years in Washington, D.C., the battle over Medicare prescription drug coverage remains his most memorable experience.

“It was a really interesting political battle,— Wimer said. “To think back to 2003 and remember what happened.—

Shortly after the bill passed, Wimer joined the office of then-freshman Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.). The battle proved to a formative experience for new Republicans such as Garrett who bucked the party line in voting against Medicare Part D.

Wimer said that in light of the history, today’s fight over health care has echoes of familiarity.

“I am a big fan of reading history,— Wimer said. “These battles are not unprecedented. It will be interesting to see how the Medicare battle of 2003 compares to what happens next.—

From 2004 to 2007, Wimer worked three different positions for Garret: staff assistant, legislative correspondent and legislative assistant.

As 2007 came to a close, the private sector beckoned for Wimer to take a hiatus from the Hill. A position with the trade association Printing Industries of America allowed Wimer to indulge in his passion — communications — on a full-time basis. From January 2008 to this summer, Wimer worked as manager of communications for the association.

At the same time he left the Hill, Wimer enrolled in a weekend graduate program with American University. After earning a master’s in public communications in May, Wimer said, he was ready to get back on Capitol Hill.

As Wimer began looking for communications jobs on the Hill, a friend of a friend provided word of the press secretary opening in Pitts’ office. Wimer said it was a no-brainer to apply.

“The Congressman is a leader in social and fiscal issues,— Wimer said. “He’s a strong conservative with a heart for improving human rights around the world and especially those suffering religious persecution.—

[IMGCAP(2)]The job turned out to be a perfect fit. With a strong love for political communications, Wimer would be “speech writing for a Republican administration or presidential campaign.—

Wimer, 30, hails from Palm Bay, Fla. College drew him north to Grove City College in Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 2003.

In college, Wimer first thought a career in magazine writing to be a more likely path. But that changed in summer of 2002 when Wimer landed an internship with former Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.).

“I interned in the Florida office of Dr. Dave Weldon in the summer between my junior and senior year,— Wimer said. “I liked that job so much that I decided to come to D.C. after graduating.—

After finishing college, Wimer interned with the House Small Business Committee, which eventually allowed him to catapult to his first Hill job with the Garrett office in 2004.

With close to six years spent in the Washington area, Wimer is quickly able to rattle off his favorite things to do about town. Those include visits to the Shakespeare Theatre and “free museums— as well as cycling around Arlington’s bike trails.

“I try to cycle as much as I can,— Wimer said. “It’s getting to be dark now, but over the summer I would sometimes bike into work from Arlington.—

Wimer said big-name music acts are another entertainment draw to the city. Wimer and his wife, Rachel, go to concerts every few months, including recently Radiohead, Arcade Fire and the National.

On Sundays, Wimer and his wife attend something entirely different: McLean Presbyterian Church. The couple occasionally works together in the toddler nursery.

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