Hutchison picks, chooses issues on key Senate panel

SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson talks about Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's strategy in key Senate votes and her race for governor.

The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON – Legislation to permit law enforcement to jam prisoners' cellphone calls easily cleared a Senate committee on Wednesday, the latest example of how Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has used her seniority to push Texas-centric issues that translate directly to her run for governor.

Yet Hutchison has been absent from the committee's work on two top priorities of Congress: health care legislation and consumer protection. When she recently announced her departure from the Senate in the fall, she said she'd stay in Washington long enough to participate in the health legislation.

Hutchison missed all four Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearings that explored problems with health insurers, including one that showed insurers "purge" small-business beneficiaries if their claims exceed underwriters' expectations.

Hutchison, who became the top Republican on the Commerce Committee last year, also missed three meetings that took on bogus advertising claims and sought to expand the Federal Trade Commission's power over them. . .

"When she looks at the health care debate, she just doesn't see how you can really turn that to advantage in a governor's race in Texas," said Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University. "I think she's deciding she has better ways to spend her time."

Since last year, her committee priorities have included Texas-friendly issues such as prisons, highways and NASA programs.

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