Today's Republican House leadership would look much different if it weren't for Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney's Bill Thomas, writes the Washington Post's Ben Pershing.
It was Thomas, a 14-year veteran of the Hill, who backed the campaign of Speaker of the House John A. Boehner and convinced House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan to join the Ways and Means Committee, where they were able to gain valuable legislative experience. Even Thomas' successor, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, spent 15 years on Thomas' staff in California learning his way from the former political science instructor.
Thomas would not have it any other way.
"I always wanted to bring young people in, give them a test and see if they could handle it," he said. "Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy could handle everything that got piled on."
Though he no longer has a seat on the Hill, Thomas regularly converses with his colleagues, acting as part soundboard, part grizzled veteran.
"I'm more than happy to be a backboard for them to bounce stuff off and generate ideas, and they let me do that," Thomas explained.
During his congressional tenure, Thomas was considered a "workhorse" and was often ranked among the "brainiest" lawmakers in the Washingtonian's polling of staffers. Along the way, Thomas made an indelible mark on the Republican party, encouraging the members who now lead the pack.
When Boehner ran for House majority leader in 2006 it was Thomas' late endorsement and nomination — he characterized Boehner as "a bridge" between House factions — that helped the Ohio congressman defeat then-acting majority leader Roy Blunt.
Now, Thomas has been particularly impressed by Boehner's willingness to delegate, not consolidate, his power. Thomas says Boehner understands the importance of spreading out authority because he previously served as committee chairman.
As then-Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Thomas co-wrote the 2001 and 2003 tax cut packages, as well as the bill that created a Medicare prescription drug benefit. But none of that compares to Congress' current opportunity, which he calls a "golden moment."
"This is truly one of the rare times where doing the right thing from a policy point of view is also the right thing to do from a political point of view," he said.
"I hope enough people understand that."