Thomas Selected as Ways and Means Chair
House Republican leaders yesterday selected "independent-minded" Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) over the more tenured and "conservative" Rep. Phil Crane (R-Ill.) to chair the Ways and Means Committee, the Wall Street Journal reports. The committee will handle many of President-elect George W. Bush's "top legislative priorities," including Medicare, Social Security and taxes (Murray, Wall Street Journal, 1/5). Thomas, moving into his 12th term in the House, has focused more on Medicare and health care in "recent years," but is "likely" to address Bush's "sweeping" tax cut plan first (AP/Baltimore Sun, 1/5). Thomas indicated that his "first priority" as committee chair is to "restructure Ways and Means so it can best handle the complex legislation headed its way," including Medicare reform and a prescription drug benefit for seniors. Thomas, who has been known for his "impatience," and "hot temper," downplayed his authority by vowing the committee will be "part of a team" that includes the White House, the Republican leadership, the Senate Finance Committee and Democrats serving on both congressional tax writing panels. Thomas said, "I don't think it serves any purpose to stake out any position right now ... this is a process. The key is to visit with everyone and find common themes." According to the Journal, Thomas took a "similar inclusive approach" on the issues of Medicare reform and other health care legislation as former Ways and Means health subcommittee chair.
Thomas's reputation as a "hard worker" and "master of legislative arcana" helped him win the position over the more senior Rep. Crane, who is entering his 17th term in the House (Wall Street Journal, 1/5). According to "aides and members on both sides of the aisle," Thomas is viewed as "someone more likely to compromise with Democrats in order to move legislation" (Alvarez, New York Times, 1/5). Rep Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) "called Thomas's selection a huge plum for California," the Los Angeles Times reports. Thomas is the first Californian to chair the committee and his selection "puts Californians in two of the top committees posts. Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) will continue to chair the Rules Committee (Simon, Los Angeles Times, 1/5).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.