Bill Thomas: Whose Side is He On?

January 19, 2005

I don’t understand the comments of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas yesterday, who predicted that partisan warfare would result in the president’s Social Security reform plan becoming a “dead horse” in short order. He said Congress should take a broader view of this problem? What kind of signal does that send? It seems to me that with Thomas it’s always about “me.”

Thomas said, “What I’m trying to get people to do is get out of the narrow moving around of the pieces inside the Social Security box. If we miss this opportunity . . . I think we will have missed an opportunity that may not present itself for another 20 years.” Thomas also indicated that he wants the house to take up Social Security and tax code revisions at the same time, whereas President Bush wanted to work on them separately.

Is this some kind of old-fashioned power struggle going on? I could understand this kind of reaction from a “moderate” Republican, but Thomas is supposed to be a conservative and Bush’s plans on both Social Security and taxes, at least, are conservative-oriented. Just imagine if Newt Gingrich or Jack Kemp had taken this approach to the Reagan Tax Cuts. This is certainly a new approach to negotiation: capitulate to Democrat obstructionists even before negotiations begin.