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Chairman says sorry for calling police

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 24, 2003

WASHINGTON - Rep. Bill Thomas choked back tears Wednesday as he confessed to poor judgment in approving the use of Capitol police to break up a meeting of Democrats on the House committee he chairs.

"As my mother would have put it, "when they were passing out moderation, you were hiding behind the door,"' said the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee - acknowledging the confrontational style that has been his trademark in a quarter-century in Congress.

"I learned a very painful lesson on Friday. As members you deserve better judgment from me and you'll get it," he said.

By his remarks, Thomas hoped to quell a controversy that flared on Friday when a routine committee meeting about a pension reform bill ended with name-calling and a call to police.

Thomas' remarks on the House floor Wednesday amounted to an act of contrition but less than the full apology that Democrats had sought. Republicans applauded as he concluded the mea culpa, and many Democrats stood and clapped, although less vigorously.

Also in Congress ...

JUDGE NOMINATION SENT TO FULL SENATE: Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor, who has been outspoken in his opposition to abortion and homosexuality, was advanced to the full Senate, with all 10 committee Republicans voting for him and all nine Democrats voting against him. Pryor will likely face a Democratic filibuster.

MEDICARE REFORM: In an effort to resolve differences on Medicare prescription drug legislation, President Bush invited congressional bargainers to the White House on Wednesday. The hope is to reach agreement on some points before summer breaks begin.

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