Newspapers Examine Concerns Over Potential Move by Rep. Billy Tauzin To Head Pharmaceutical Industry Group
Two newspapers this weekend published articles that examined Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), who last week announced that he will resign as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee effective Feb. 16 and will not seek re-election in November. Tauzin last week recused himself from committee issues related to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which in January offered Tauzin a position as president. He reportedly is expected to accept the PhRMA offer and leave the House before his term expires (California Healthline, 2/4). Summaries of the articles appear below.
Philadelphia Inquirer: According to the Inquirer, the offer to head PhRMA has placed Tauzin "at the center of an ethics storm that raises questions not only about his job search" but also about the new Medicare law (HR 1), which he helped write. "There is little doubt that the pharmaceutical industry will be one of the biggest beneficiaries" of the Medicare law; Goldman Sachs analysts estimate that the Medicare law will increase annual U.S. spending on prescription drugs by about $13 billion, the Inquirer reports. However, Medicare beneficiaries also will benefit from the law, and that "makes divining motives of individual lawmakers nearly impossible," the Inquirer reports. Craig Holman of consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, which has requested a House Standards of Official Conduct Committee investigation into whether Tauzin negotiated the position with PhRMA during the Medicare law debate, said, "The prescription drug bill was the most important social legislation in a generation, and now it is under a cloud" (Mondics, Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/8).
- New York Times: According to the Times, "Democrats, consumer groups -- and even some Republicans, speaking privately" -- have said that the possibility that Tauzin will accept the offer to head PhRMA "is crossing a line." Tauzin, who has almost one year left in his term, has "shaken things up in part" because in most cases lawmakers wait until they are almost out of office to search for new jobs, the Times reports. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, "If you want to know the price of selling seniors down river, it's approximately about $2 million a year" to head PhRMA. However, Tauzin spokesperson Ken Johnson said, "The only people bellyaching are a handful of Democratic leaders who would like to turn this into a campaign issue" (Stolberg, New York Times, 2/7).