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Executive Summary

WAYS & MEANS/HEALTH SUBCOMMITTEE MEMBER RUSSO's (D-Ill.) top priority will be legislation to establish a national health care system. Russo's move to the House subcommittee was approved by committee Democrats during a Dec. 5 organizational meeting. Russo is a former member of the health panel but gave up the slot when he joined the House Budget Committee in 1984. Russo is leaving the budget panel this year and is entitled to reclaim his health subcommittee position. Russo has been working on national health insurance legislation for more than a year and hopes to introduce it early in the session, aides said. He was a prime sponsor of legislation enacted in 1989 to repeal the Medicare Catastrophic Care Act. At that time, he advised colleagues to "vote for the [repeal] amendment and begin today the debate to establish a universal health care system that delivers the best quality health care to all citizens at an affordable price" ("The Pink Sheet" Oct. 9, p. 15). During a stint on the Energy & Commerce Committee, however, he voted against the Carter Administration's hospital cost control proposals. First elected to Congress in 1974, Russo represents Illinois' third district, encompassing the southwestern portion of Chicago and suburbs. The Chicago native is seen as a close ally of fellow Chicagoan Rep. Rostenkowski (D-Ill.), chairman of the Ways & Means panel. Russo also has worked his way up through the House leadership to his present post as a deputy majority whip. Russo replaces Rep. Pickle (D-Tex.) who had been one of the subcommittee's more conservative members and an advocate of rural concerns. In other changes considered by Democratic and Republican caucuses Dec. 5, the full Ways and Means Committee will add three new members: Democratic Rep. McDermott (Wash.) and Republican Reps. Bunning (Ky.) and Grandy (Iowa). The Republican members were recommended by their party's Committee on Committees, and must be ratified by the Republican Conference in January. McDermott, a psychiatrist, is expected to be active on health care issues. The House Appropriations Committee added four new Democrats to its ranks: Pelosi (Calif.), Price (N.C.), Skaggs (Colo.) and Smith (Fla.). Its new Republican member is Vucanovich (Nev.). The appointments reflect an increase in the number of Democrats to Republicans on the Appropriations Committee. The current ratio is 35/22. It will change to 37/22. The Republican Committee on Committees also recommended that Reps. Hastert (Ill.) and Holloway (La.) be appointed to the Energy and Commerce Committee. This may reflect a decrease in the final number of Republican members on the committee since three Republicans seats were available, but only two members were selected. Selections have not been named for the three Democratic seats open on the committee.

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