March 6, 2006

Rep. Thomas announces retirement from Congress

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House Ways and Means Committee
Chairman Bill Thomas said on Monday he would retire from the
House of Representatives at the end of his current term,
leaving open to speculation the future for the veteran

The California Republican, who was instrumental in helping
President George W. Bush win passage of his tax cut proposals,
would have stepped down as chairman of the powerful tax writing
committee after this year anyway because of term limits set by
House Republicans.

"Over the next nine months, I intend to continue to work
hard and finish my congressional term with the same vigor as
the first," Thomas said in a statement. He made the
announcement at a news conference in Bakersfield, California,
in his home district.

"Challenges lie ahead, and I intend to work hard to tackle
the problems caused by our outdated entitlement programs and
our currently flawed income tax structure," he added.

Known for his sharp wit and sometimes sharp tongue, Thomas,
65, was first elected to Congress in 1978. He took over
chairmanship of Ways and Means in January 2001.

Thomas' grasp of details and knowledge of the Medicare
prescription drug plan for the elderly proved valuable in
helping get that complex legislation through Congress in 2003.

He has been mentioned by some Republican sources as among
those being considered by the White House to eventually replace
Treasury Secretary John Snow. It is widely believed that Snow
may not stay through the end of Bush's term.