HOUSE ENERGY & COMMERCE COMMITTEE’s WALGREN, JUDICIARY SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRMAN KASTENMEIER DEFEATED NOV. 6: COMMERCE COMMITTEE LOSES SIX
Two House legislators with long involvement in health-related issues were defeated in the Nov. 6 elections: Energy & Commerce Committee member Walgren (D-Pa.) and Judiciary/courts subcommittee Chairman Kastenmeier (D-Wis.). Walgren garnered 49% of the vote in his southwestern Pennsylvania district and lost a close race to Pittsburgh lawyer Rick Santorum. Walgren had chaired the Commerce/Consumer Protection Subcommittee and had previously been a member of the health subcommittee. He also is a member of the Science, Space & Technology Committee. Walgren sponsored legislation to provide federal funding for immunosuppressive drugs for organ transplant patients -- an important issue for the Western Pennsylvania area where the University of Pittsburgh is active in organ transplantation. He also was involved in legislation to establish National Science Foundation-administered scholarships for scientists. In 1984, he convened hearings to examine the regulatory framework for release into the environment of genetically-engineered organisms. Walgren's departure creates one of about half a dozen vacancies on the Energy & Commerce Committee. Three are on the health subcommittee. Those three, all Republicans, are Tauke (Iowa), who lost a Senate bid against incumbent Sen. Harkin (chairman of the Senate Appropriations/HHS subcommittee), and Whittaker (Kan.) and Neilson (Utah), both of whom retired. Other departures are Democrats Lukens (Ohio), also retiring, and possibly Bates (Calif.). The final vote tally in Bates' down-to-the wire race will be announced Nov. 13. Party caucuses will make new committee appointments at the start of the next session, with active lobbying likely for slots on the powerful Commerce panel. Rep. Kastenmeier, a 30-year veteran of the House, lost a 47%-53% race in his Madison-area district. The winner was a former sportscaster, Scott Klug. Kastenmeier has been a long-time force for caution in amending patent law. The Wisconsin congressman was involved in working out a compromise on the patent portion of the 1984 Waxman/Hatch law and in the process patent legislation enacted in 1988. More recently, Kastenmeier withheld support for Rep. Boucher's (D-Va.) biotechnology patent bills, stating that the Judiciary Committee must still "assess whether there is a problem" regarding patent law and biotechnology, and "whether a legislative response is necessary" ("The Pink Sheet" Oct. 1, p. 7). Also leaving Judiciary is immigration subcommittee Chairman Bruce Morrison (D-Conn.), who lost a gubernatorial run against former Sen. Weicker, and Reps. Crockett (D-Mich.) and Douglas (R-N.H.). Because Kastenmeier's preference was to preserve patent law, the upcoming changes in committee membership could open the way for the courts subcommittee to take a more flexible approach. Rep. Synar (D-Okla.) is a possible successor to Kastenmeier. While four committee members rank ahead of Synar on the subcommittee, there is only one member ahead of him on the full committee who does not have a subcommittee post. That member, Conyers (Mich.), already chairs the Government Operations Committee. Synar, also a Commerce/Health Subcommittee member, cosponsored the House version of the Waxman/Hatch bill. During 1988 debate on product liability legislation, Synar sponsored an amendment that would continue to permit drug and medical device manufacturers to argue against liability on the grounds that a product is "unavoidably unsafe," a defense the bill would have denied to other products. Synar was also a key participant in the just-completed negotiations on the Medicaid rebate bill (see related story, below). On the Ways and Means Committee, three members are leaving: Democrat Flippo (Ala.), who ran unsuccessfully for governor, and Republicans Frenzel (Minn.) who is retiring and Brown (Colo.), who won a Senate seat. None is on the health panel. In part because only a third of the Senate seats were up for election, few changes are seen on the Senate health-related committees. The retirement of Sen. Armstrong (R-Colo.) will result in open seats on the Finance Committee. On the Aging Committee, one slot is open due to the successful gubernatorial run of Sen. Wilson (R-Calif.). No other changes have occurred on those panels nor on the Labor & Human Resources Committee. Sen. Pryor (D-Ark.), a member of the Finance and Aging Committees and arguably the most important figure to the drug industry in 1990, had an uncontested election for his third term.
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