HOUSE WAYS & MEANS/HEALTH SUBCOMMITTEE’s TOP REPUBLICAN IS CALIFORNIA REP. THOMAS AS GRADISON STEPS ASIDE; REP. COOPER JOINS COMMERCE/HEALTH SUBCOMMITTEE
Rep. Bill Thomas (Calif.) has moved up to be the top ranking Republican on the House Ways & Means/Health Subcommittee, a post made available after Rep. Gradison (Ohio) decided to leave the subcommittee entirely and join the committee's Human Resources Subcommittee. A House member since 1979, Rep. Thomas has served on the Ways & Means Committee during his entire House tenure but not on the health subcommittee. A combination of factors led to the Thomas move: aside from Gradison, only one Republican, Rep. Johnson (R- Conn.), was returning to the subcommittee after the 1992 elections, and Thomas ranks fourth in Republican seniority on the full committee compared to Johnson's seventh-place position. Gradison's departure from the health panel is intended to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest should he decide to leave Congress to become president of the Health Insurance Association of America. Gradison had held the health panel's ranking minority post since 1985; he has scheduled a press conference Jan. 11 in Cincinnati to discuss his future plans. Thomas has weighed in on several Medicare-related issues during his 10 years on the Ways and Means Committee but is still a bit of a newcomer to many health issues and has not sponsored many health-related legislative proposals. The California Republican has an outline of a comprehensive health care reform plan that he hopes to use in discussions with other subcommittee members, staffers indicated. In addition to Medicare hospital and physician payment reform, two issues that occupied much of the subcommittee's attention over the past decade, Thomas was involved in the overhaul of Medicare's hospital capital payment policy, with an interest in ensuring that facilities currently undergoing renovation would not be adversely affected by the new payment rules. Thomas represents the Bakersfield area of California and was a political science professor and state legislator before being elected to the House. His current health aide, Brian Webb, is expected to remain in Thomas' personal office and no staff changes are anticipated on the health subcommittee's minority staff. Thomas and Johnson will be joined on the health subcommittee by fellow Republican Reps. Grandy (Iowa), who was on the committee's Human Resources and Select Revenue Measures Subcommittees last year, and McCrery (La.), a member of the Budget and Armed Services Committees last session. The House Energy & Commerce Committee has made both Democratic and Republican subcommittee assignments, with Rep. Cooper (D- Tenn.) joining the Health Subcommittee. Cooper, who heads the Conservative Democratic Forum's health policy task force, was on the Telecommunications and Consumer Subcommittees last year. The addition of Cooper to the Energy & Commerce health panel, coupled with the appointment last month of CDF member Rep. Andrews (D-Tex.) to the Ways and Means/Health Subcommittee, gives the CDF a voice in the two major House subcommittees where health legislation originates. CDF, the group of conservative-to-moderate Democrats, which favors a managed competition approach to health care reform without global budgets or employer-mandated coverage, is widely considered to be the swing vote in passing a health reform bill in the House. Also joining the Democratic side of the Commerce Health Subcommittee are Rep. Slattery (Kan.), a committee veteran who last year proposed flat Medicaid drug rebates in place of "best prices," freshman Reps. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Mike Kreidler (Wash.), and two House incumbents who were named to the full committee last month, Reps. Washington (D-Tex.) and Pallone (D- N.J.). New Republican health subcommittee members are Reps. Paxon (N.Y.), Klug (Wis.), Franks (Conn.), Upton (Mich.) and freshman James Greenwood (Pa.). Senate Democrats also made committee assignments, with Wofford (Penn.) named to the Labor & Human Resources Committee and Conrad (N.D.) tapped for the Finance Committee. The selections were recommended by the Senate Democratic steering committee and must be approved by the Senate Democratic Conference, a step that it is generally a technicality. Subcommittee assignments have not been made. Wofford's focus on health care reform in the 1991 special Senate held after the death of Sen. Heinz helped push the issue into the spotlight for the 1992 elections. He has added a new health staffer familiar with Labor Committee issues: Labor & Human Resources Health Policy Advisor Darrel Jodrey. Conrad fills the Finance Committee seat that will become available assuming that committee Chairman Bentsen (D-Tex.) is confirmed by the Senate as Treasury Secretary. Conrad is expected to add a new health aide shortly. Senate Republicans on Jan. 8 added Sen Judd Gregg (N.H.) to the Finance committee nad Sen. Wallop (Wyo.) to the Labor panel. As expected, Sen Kassebaum (Kan.) will be the ranking Republican on Labor. She succeeds Sen. Hatch (Utah), who will remain on the committee ("The Pink Sheet" Dec. 21, 1992, p. 27).
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