Tauzin Vows to Stay

As Rumors Fly, Energy Chairman Insists He’ll Seek Another Term

Posted June 24, 2003 at 6:37pm

Putting an end to rampant retirement rumors, Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) said Tuesday that he would “definitely” run for re-election in 2004.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Tauzin said in an interview, adding that he still has more than three years left in his tenure as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “Why would I want to walk away from that?’’

Speculation on Capitol Hill and on K Street that he would resign in the middle of the 108th Congress for a plum lobbying job had reached a fever pitch in recent days, prompting Tauzin to take firm steps to stop the rumors. The Louisiana lawmaker will send a letter to all of his fellow House Republicans today outlining his plans to run for a 14th term next year.

“The letter will say I’m definitely running,” Tauzin said.

In addition to sending the letter, Tauzin also plans to step up his fundraising in the coming months, including several events for his colleagues this week and next.

Tauzin hosted a fundraiser for Rep. James Greenwood (R-Pa.) in Philadelphia on Monday. On Thursday, he will do two events in Washington — one for Rep. Charles Bass (R-N.H.) and the other for Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.). Next Wednesday, Tauzin will be in San Antonio for Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Texas), and he is also trying to schedule an event next week for freshman Rep. John Carter (R-Texas). July 7 will find Tauzin in North Carolina for Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.).

The lawmaker plans to begin his own re-election campaign advertising in August.

“We’re doing an ad that’s going to run in all of the newspapers” in the district, said Tauzin spokesman Ken Johnson.

Stories in Roll Call and other publications have named Tauzin as a leading contender for the top post at the Motion Picture Association of America. The job — which is expected to be relinquished soon by Jack Valenti — has not yet been filled, but several House Republican sources said they did not believe the job would be offered to the Energy and Commerce chairman.

Tauzin has not denied that he was interested in the position — considered one of the more glamorous lobbying jobs in Washington — but he has also said that he has not discussed the post with anyone at the MPAA.

Some Republicans have also described Tauzin as frustrated with his Congressional work and eager to join the private sector, where he could make more money.

But the distraction of stories saying he would resign and the fear of being portrayed as a lame-duck chairman helped Tauzin decide to do some immediate spin control. “I’ve got to do some of that just because of these stories,” Tauzin said.

Tauzin has already given assurances to House Republican leaders that he will not leave the chamber, telling them of his intention to raise more money for his colleagues and of his plans for an aggressive agenda on the policy front. Leadership staffers also said they saw the recent hire of lobbyist and former Tauzin aide Dan Brouillette to fill the Commerce staff director post as a sign that the chairman was in it for the long haul.

“It looks like a guy who is serious about staying here,” said a senior House GOP leadership aide.

Tauzin’s decision pre-empts what would likely have been a high-powered battle to replace him atop the Commerce panel. An opening could have prompted Financial Services Chairman Mike Oxley (R-Ohio) to drop that gavel in favor of the one at Commerce, which Tauzin bested him for in 1998. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) would also have been a leading contender for the chairmanship.

The move also for now dashes Democratic hopes for a potentially competitive open-seat race in Louisiana’s 3rd district.