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Speaker Almost Makes History

When Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) announced Friday the five House GOP participants for the upcoming Medicare prescription drug conference, the list was notable not for the names that were on it but for one that wasn’t — his own.

Leadership sources said Hastert seriously considered naming himself to the conference committee but decided against doing so only after his office researched the matter and found that no Speaker had ever served on a House-Senate conference.

Instead, the GOP leadership will be represented on the conference by Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas). Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) will co-chair the conference, which will also include Republican Reps. Nancy Johnson (Conn.) and Mike Bilirakis (Fla.).

Sources said there were two main reasons Hastert contemplated putting himself on the committee. The first was that he has taken a particular interest in the issue. The other was that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) named himself to the conference, so having the Speaker on as well could have helped maintain an equal balance of power between the two chambers.

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