Tauzin Ends Talks on PhRMA Job; Could Resume After Retirement
Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) on Thursday announced that he has ended current contract negotiations to become president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and that he will not make any decision about job offers until he leaves Congress, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports (Walsh, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 2/27). Tauzin announced earlier this month that he would resign as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee effective Feb. 16 and will not seek reelection in November. PhRMA offered Tauzin its top position in January; current PhRMA President and CEO Alan Holmer has announced that he will resign after a replacement is selected later this year (California Healthline, 2/4). A Tauzin spokesperson said, "He has not accepted a position, and [PhRMA] may well pursue other candidates" (Wegner, CongressDaily, 2/26). However, Tauzin could renew talks with the trade group once he leaves Congress, according to a spokesperson. PhRMA had reportedly offered Tauzin at least $2 million in salary and compensation for the job, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports (Shields, Baton Rouge Advocate, 2/27). That offer is the "most lucrative compensation package ever offered to head a trade organization," according to a source, the Washington Post reports.
Tauzin's decision to end negotiations "ends more than a month of controversy," as Democrats have criticized the PhRMA offer because his committee shares jurisdiction over Medicare with the House Ways and Means Committee. In addition, the recent Medicare legislation (HR 1) includes provisions that PhRMA "had lobbied hard for," the Post reports (Krim, Washington Post, 2/27). Tauzin was "a leading advocate" for a provision to ban reimportation of cheaper, U.S.-made prescription drugs from Canada and a measure that prevents Medicare officials from negotiating lower drug prices with manufacturers, USA Today reports (Welch, USA Today, 2/27). Tauzin has denied allegations that the job offer was made in exchange for his work on the Medicare bill, and he told House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that he was "never approached about the pharmaceutical job during the debate on the Medicare bill," the Post reports (Washington Post, 2/27). Until he leaves Congress, Tauzin has said that he will continue to recuse himself from any health care matters that come before the Energy and Commerce Committee, on which he still serves as a member (CongressDaily, 2/26). Tauzin has been "widely expected" to leave office within the next few weeks or before his term is up at the end of the year, although the recent development may indicate he will stay until the November election, the Times-Picayune reports (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 2/27).
While Republican leaders have said publicly that they "saw no problem" with Tauzin considering PhRMA's job offer, "privately, he had come under intense pressure from GOP colleagues to spare them the embarrassment" of taking the position, according to USA Today. Democrats contended that if Tauzin had accepted the offer, it could have "crystallize[d] for the public a variety of issues and allegations haunting Republicans this election year, from coziness with health care and other industries to ethics cases and heavy-handed legislative leadership," USA Today reports. Thomas Mann, a congressional scholar at the Brookings Institution, said, "There is nothing uncertain about two and a half million dollars a year as lobbyist for drug companies. It's pretty easy to convey" (USA Today, 2/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.