Newspapers Examine Rep. Billy Tauzin’s Potential Move To Head PhRMA
Two newspapers recently 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, 2/9). Summaries of the articles appear below.
Los Angeles Times: The "particularly controversial" offer that Tauzin received to head PhRMA -- "one of the biggest beneficiaries" of the Medicare law that Tauzin helped write -- highlights "an especially murky area of ethics in the nation's capital," in which congressional ethics rules "impose few limits on the ability of powerful people to look for private-sector jobs while they still hold public office," the Times reports. According to the Times, some Democrats and consumer advocacy groups "exploded" in response to reports of the offer, which they maintain "would amount to a reward to Tauzin for helping deliver a Medicare bill" that is "strongly supported by the drug industry." In addition, some Republicans have raised concerns that the offer is "making it easier for Democrats to continue attacking the Medicare bill as a giveaway to the drug industry," the Times reports (Hook, Los Angeles Times, 2/9).
- Wall Street Journal: According to a Journal "Political Capital" column, the offer that Tauzin has received from PhRMA, the "prolonged and semipublic negotiations that have preceded" his resignation as committee chair and the "fact he has retained his chairmanship while negotiations take place" have made the "public auction" for his services "unique." Some Republicans have raised concerns that Tauzin, who helped write the new Medicare law (HR 1), "could undercut the Republican case for the controversial bill" in the event that he accepts the offer to head PhRMA, and some Democrats and consumer advocacy groups have raised concerns that Tauzin may have violated congressional ethics rules, the Journal states. However, Tauzin spokesperson Ken Johnson has said that Tauzin "broke no ethics rules," which if accurate, "only demonstrates ... the inadequacy of the rules governing congressional behavior," according to the Journal (Murray, Wall Street Journal, 2/10).