Typically, this time of year, a long day at the office for most K Streeters would consist of hopping from a holiday fete to a fundraiser to a client soiree. But the city’s influence-peddlers have had little time to enjoy wassail as health care inches closer to the finish line and Members try to wrap up other legislative priorities before year’s end.
“People are absolutely exhausted down here, and they are really ready for this to be over with,— groaned veteran lobbyist Rich Gold of Holland & Knight. “I don’t think I’ve worked this hard in my entire career.—
This year’s downtown holiday gatherings have been less about cutting loose and more about making a quick appearance before returning to work to burn the midnight oil to attend to the constant pressure of keeping up-to-date on the latest in health care reform, the financial services regulatory overhaul and the year-end spending bills, according to several lobbyists.
“It’s been nights, weekends, holidays,— one Democratic lobbyist said of his work schedule. “Because there are several significant and complicated agenda items in play, people are feeling vulnerable and unsure about outcomes, so they want people to tell them every 20 seconds what is going on.—
“We are like Bloomberg with our own updates monitoring the political stock market,— he quipped.
Alex Vogel of Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti agrees that the pace has been unrelenting.
“It’s been exceptionally busy all year,— Vogel said, noting that in previous Congresses there was an up-and-down swing in activity.
Lobbyists said they expected a busy year with the new Obama administration. But the push to get massive reform packages finished in one Congress has caused a lobbying frenzy on three fronts — health care, financial services, and energy and environment.
Massive reform packages usually take multiple Congresses before they are enacted. For example, both bankruptcy and telecom reform bills cycled through multiple Congresses before being signed into law.
“Just the idea that we are where we are on health care just gives you a sense of why it’s been so busy,— Vogel said.
Health care lobbyists, in particular, have been burning the candle at both ends, trying to get sponsors for amendments and also keeping appraised of the closed-door negotiating sessions happening on the Hill.
“It’s so close to the end that in addition to being busy, there’s a certain amount of anxiety knowing that decisions are being made behind closed doors,— one health care consultant said.
As Democrats try to find unity to pass legislation, several lobbyists said their holiday plans remain in flux.
Lobby shops expected to close next week could now be open without support staff. And the week between Christmas and New Year’s, typically considered a safe time for out-of-town getaways, is also in jeopardy of being consumed by health care.
“We are all still assuming they might not be in that week, but even if they aren’t in, it doesn’t mean we won’t need to work,— the health care consultant said.
With health care reform turning into a never-ending marathon that threatens long-planned vacations and family gatherings, some lobbyists, like Andy Rosenberg of Ogilvy Government Relations, say they are still maintaining their good cheer.
Rosenberg spent last week multitasking, keeping his eye on health care reform while staying up late baking goodies for his annual holiday party.
Rosenberg is in it for the long haul. He predicts Congress will be working through the holidays and well into January.
“The smart money has always been that they would press up against every deadline imaginable,— Rosenberg said. “I imagine we’ll be working right up until the State of the Union.—