Sonja L. Nesbit*

Senior Government Relations Director
Sonja provides strategic health policy advice to hospitals, health systems, device and drug manufacturers, professional medical societies, and patient groups.
Sonja Nesbit, Senior Government Relations Director, Washington, DC at Arent Fox LLP

Sonja served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Legislation in the Department of Health and Human Services under President Obama. She also worked for the Ways and Means Committee for more than a decade. She also provides strategic advice on federal tax and trade policies.   

*Sonja is not a member of the legal practice.

Previous Work

Most recently, Sonja Nesbit was appointed to serve as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Legislation at the US Department of Health and Human Services. 

Sonja spent 14 years working with Members of Congress and their staffs from both parties to pass legislation that advanced the legislative agendas of the Obama Administration and the Committee on Ways and Means. She has strong working relations with people at the center of health care and tax policy debates in Washington, DC, and has a deep understanding of the legislative processes within the Executive and Legislative Branches and the federal regulatory process.

Sonja has a proven track record on Capitol Hill. She worked closely with then-Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s offices to secure a two-year funding extension totaling over $5 billion in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, which provided additional funding for community health centers, the National Health Service Corps, and Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education. She also worked with the Senate HELP and House Energy and Commerce Committees on discussions concerning mental health legislation, tobacco deeming, and responses to opioid addiction. Sonja helped to secure passage of the Sunscreen Innovation Act of 2014 (FDA) and the PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Act of 2014, and worked on the Meaningful Use regulations (ONC). She has also handled a variety of issues including working with CMS on Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement program compliance issues for tribal hospitals and expanding Medicaid eligibility for certain populations. She worked on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, including the expansion of funding for health centers and graduate medical education, and the implementation of the law in Indian Country. Sonja collaborated with the Department’s Congressional oversight counsel who is responsible for complying with Congressional oversight requests for information and documentation. She also teamed with other senior officials in the Department to respond to Inspector General findings related to the 340B and community health centers programs. 

While in the Administration, Sonja served as the principal HHS Congressional representative before Congressional Members, their staffs, and outside organizations on a variety of issues including the 340B program, graduate medical education, community health centers, rural hospitals, organ procurement guidelines, and the Indian Health Services. Sonja worked with senior White House officials, including White House Legislation, the Domestic Policy Council, White House Office of Engagement, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to execute the President’s legislative priorities and develop President Obama’s federal budget requests for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Prior to her appointment, Sonja served as the deputy staff director for the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources for more than a decade. While there, she worked on behalf of Representatives Sander Levin (D-MI) and Jim McDermott (D-WA) to include over $43 billion in proposals in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that helped to limit the financial effects of the Great Recession of 2008. During her tenure, she worked with the Committee’s tax staff on issues related to the Federal Unemployment Tax Credits, including the SUTA Dumping Prevention Act of 2004, and the expansion of the certain tax credits (i.e., the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and the Adoption Tax Credit) in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2010.  She also worked on tax provisions related to charitable foundations and with the Committee’s trade staff on the Omnibus Trade Act of 2010.

Publications, Presentations, and Recognitions

Sonja’s awards include:

  • First Focus Campaign for Children 2011 Champion for Children, recognizing the top leaders in Congress working to make children and families a national priority in federal policy and budget decisions.

Sonja’s publications include:

  • Author, "The Outlook on Repealing and Replacing the ACA," AHLA Weekly, December 2016
  • Co-Author, “Is a National Retail Sales Tax In Our Future?” Tax Notes; September 2004 (Vol. 104, NO. 12)