Commerce Committee Reasserts Authority on Health Care
House Energy and Commerce Chair W.J. Tauzin (R-La.) has set some new goals for his committee, including repositioning the group in important health care debates, CongressDaily reports. To avoid the "past fights" among House Republicans on health care, Tauzin has "vowed" to promote better cooperation with other committees that share jurisdiction on health issues. In addition, Tauzin said he "would better use" members of his committee and would "promote better working relationships with other panels" than did his predecessor, Thomas Bliley (R-Va.), CongressDaily reports. Tauzin added that because of past "fights among [Commerce] committee members," many lawmakers bypassed the committee in order to move certain issues on to the full House. In addition, two committees -- Ways and Means and Education and Workforce -- singularly marked up or "took control" of Rep. Bill Thomas' (R-Calif.) prescription drug bill, a patients' rights bill and medical errors legislation last year, even though the Commerce Committee shared jurisdiction or had a "legitimate stake in" those issues. CongressDaily reports that Tauzin also is prepared to address Medicare and Medicaid oversight, prescription drug costs and managed care reform.
After a site visit to HCFA in Baltimore, Tauzin said that it "was clear" that Congress "should seriously think about separating" oversight of Medicare and Medicaid into separate agencies. He added, "Improvements could be more easily accomplished when you separate the two cultures." Tauzin also intends to work on a Medicare prescription drug benefit, relying on a proposal from Sens. John Breaux (D-La.) and Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). Tauzin also "sees a new opportunity" to involve the Commerce Committee in managed care reform, particularly because Rep. Charles Norwood (R-Ga.) "publicly" withdrew support for a bill he had co-sponsored with Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the former Commerce committee chair and current ranking member. In that effort, Tauzin will need to "contend" with Democrats, including Dingell, who shares a "quest for committee power" with Tauzin, CongressDaily reports. Tauzin said, "If we can establish that our goals are common, then it ought to work" (Fulton, CongressDaily, 2/16).