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Tauzin to resign from Commerce Committee

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., has told House Speaker Dennis Hastert he will resign in two weeks from the committee that oversees most telecom-related legislation and will not seek re-election to Congress in the fall, according to numerous reports. Long rumored to be considering a job as the head of a trade association, Tauzin reportedly has been asked to head the lobbying efforts for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Last month, he reportedly turned down an opportunity to succeed Jack Valenti as president of the Motion Picture Association of America.

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Tauzin, 60, has been battling a bleeding ulcer in recent months, according to reports. Tauzin reportedly will step down from the Commerce Committee on Feb. 16, but it is uncertain whether he will complete his term this year.

In the telecom arena, Tauzin is best known for being a pro-RBOC lawmaker who co-sponsored the controversial Tauzin-Dingell bill designed to exempt incumbent carriers from having to share new fiber networks with competitors. That bill never became law, but many of its features were included in the FCC Triennial Review Order approved last year.

Most Washington insiders believe Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, will succeed Tauzin as chairman of the Commerce Committee. However, the party change last month by former Democrat Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, has raised questions.

Last week, Hall officially was re-appointed to the Commerce Committee and was allowed to keep his seniority, making him the second-ranking committee member to Tauzin, according to Janet Poppleton, Hall’s chief of staff. Hall and Barton are "longtime friends," so Hall is not expected to oppose a decision that would make Barton chairman of the Commerce Committee, Poppleton said.

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