Bill Thomas

For other people named Bill Thomas, see Bill Thomas (disambiguation).
Bill Thomas
Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee
In office
January 3, 2001  January 3, 2007
Speaker Dennis Hastert
Preceded by Bill Archer
Succeeded by Charlie Rangel
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 22nd district
In office
January 3, 2003  January 3, 2007
Preceded by Lois Capps
Succeeded by Kevin McCarthy
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 21st district
In office
January 3, 1993  January 3, 2003
Preceded by Elton Gallegly
Succeeded by Devin Nunes
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 20th district
In office
January 3, 1983  January 3, 1993
Preceded by Barry Goldwater, Jr.
Succeeded by Calvin M. Dooley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 18th district
In office
January 3, 1979  January 3, 1983
Preceded by William M. Ketchum
Succeeded by Richard H. Lehman
Member of the California State Assembly
In office
Personal details
Born (1941-12-06) December 6, 1941
Wallace, Idaho
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Sharon Thomas
Residence Morro Bay, California
Alma mater Garden Grove High School, Santa Ana College, San Francisco State University
Occupation Professor
Religion Baptist

William Marshall "Bill" Thomas (born December 6, 1941) is an American politician. He was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from 1979 to 2007, finishing his tenure representing California's 21st congressional district and as the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Early life and family

Thomas was born in Wallace, Idaho, moving with his parents to the Southern California area. He graduated from Garden Grove High School, attended Santa Ana College, earning an associate's degree before transferring to San Francisco State University, where he earned his bachelor's degree and master's degree in political science in 1963 and 1965, respectively. He became an instructor at Bakersfield College before running for and winning a seat in the California State Assembly in 1974. He won election to the House of Representatives in 1978, representing the 18th congressional district.

Thomas married the former Sharon Lynn Hamilton in 1968. They have two grown children. He and his wife are Baptists.


When Washingtonian magazine polled congressional aides on the "best and worst" of Congress, Thomas was voted #2 for "brainiest", #3 for "workhorse", and #1 for "meanest" and overwhelmingly for "hottest temper" in the House.[1] Thomas is known for being able to comprehend and communicate the intricacies of obscure legislative matters, studying testimony and research reports himself instead of relying on executive summaries from his aides. Thomas is also known for losing his temper when people are unprepared, earning a reputation for sharp interrogations. "He's revered, but he's also reviled to some degree", fellow representative Mark Foley told CQ Weekly.

Thomas's official portrait

Thomas was a key proponent of several of President George W. Bush's agenda items, including three major tax cut bills and the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (PL 108-173), and was also instrumental in the passage of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.

On March 6, 2006, Thomas announced he would not seek reelection, retiring after 28 years in the House. A major influence on his decision was the internal GOP term limits that would require him to relinquish his Ways and Means chairmanship even if he were re-elected. Thomas endorsed a former aide, Assemblyman Kevin McCarthy, who was elected to replace him.

In 2007, after leaving the House, Thomas joined the American Enterprise Institute as a visiting fellow working on tax policy, trade policy, and health care policy.[2] Thomas also joined law and lobbying firm Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney.[3]

Election history

Bill Thomas with President George W. Bush and Ways and Means Committee vice chairman Phil Crane at the White House.

Congressional committees

1992 Congressional banking scandal

In the 1992 Rubbergate banking scandal, involving House members writing checks when the funds were not available, Bill Thomas bounced 119 checks, the tenth-highest amount for a Republican member of Congress.[4].

2001 Alleged affair with lobbyist

The Bakersfield Californian published an article on Thomas about an affair with Deborah Steelman,[5] a lobbyist for Cigna, Pfizer, Aetna, United Healthcare Corporation, the Healthcare Leadership Council, and Prudential. Thomas was then chair of the House subcommittee that regulates HMOs. "Any personal failures of commitment or responsibility to my wife, family or friends are just that, personal," the former congressman wrote in an "open letter to friends and neighbors." Neither he nor Deborah Steelman explicitly denied the allegations. Deborah Steelman was promoted to VP of Eli Lilly, steered huge campaign gifts to Thomas's war chest and the health care industry scored big with the passage of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003.

2003 controversy involving U.S. Capitol police

In July 2003, Thomas called the U.S. Capitol Police to eject Democrats from a meeting room. A few days later, he tearfully apologized on the House floor for what he called his "just plain stupid" decision to ask the police to eject the Congressmen.[6][7]


  1. Calendar of Events ( Archived May 18, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. American Enterprise Institute, "Former Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas Joins AEI," news release, February 13, 2007. Archived March 13, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, "Former Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas Joins Buchanan," news release, May 2, 2007. Archived July 21, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. "Republicans in Rubbergate".
  5. "Patrick Kennedy". Retrieved 2002-10-01.
  6. Novak, Robert (2003-07-24). "Thomas's 'police state'". Retrieved 2006-12-30.
  7. "Tears From the Gruff Chairman". New York Times. 2006-07-26. Retrieved 2006-12-30.

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
William M. Ketchum
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 18th congressional district

Succeeded by
Richard H. Lehman
Preceded by
Barry Goldwater, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 20th congressional district

Succeeded by
Calvin M. Dooley
Preceded by
Elton Gallegly
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 21st congressional district

Succeeded by
Devin Nunes
Preceded by
Lois Capps
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 22nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Kevin McCarthy
Political offices
Preceded by
Charlie Rose
North Carolina
Chairman of House Administration Committee
Succeeded by
Bob Ney
Preceded by
Bill Archer
Chairman of House Ways and Means Committee
Succeeded by
Charles Rangel
New York
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