WASHINGTON — Rep. Billy Tauzin resigned Tuesday as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the most powerful positions in Congress, and announced he will not seek re-election in the fall.
Tauzin’s desire to leave Congress has been widely speculated for months as his name has surfaced as a potential head of lobbying groups of both the pharmaceutical and motion picture industries.
He was instrumental in engineering passage of the new Medicare prescription drug law passed by Congress in December. He also has been deeply involved in energy and telecommunications legislation.
The 12-term Republican congressman from Louisiana hand-delivered his resignation letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., on Monday, effective Feb. 15, said Ken Johnson, Tauzin’s spokesman.
Johnson said Tauzin, 60, has made no decision on what he would do next.
Tauzin’s name repeatedly comes up as the top contender to head the lobbying operation of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, which represents big drug manufacturers such as Eli Lilly and Co. and Merck & Co.
Recently Tauzin said he was no longer interested in replacing 82-year-old Jack Valenti as president of the Motion Picture Association of America. But he was said to be seriously considering the pharmaceutical industry job.
Both potential jobs had raised eyebrows because Tauzin’s committee has been so deeply involved in crafting legislation involving drug benefits and the telecommunications industry.
Common Cause, a private watchdog group, has raised concerns about Tauzin negotiating for such jobs while still chairman of one of the most powerful committees in the House and one that deals with legislation affecting those industries.
“It doesn’t look good,” Common Cause spokesman Mary Boyle said recently.
Johnson has said Tauzin has agreed to step aside from any committee matters involving the pharmaceutical industry.