Bill Frist

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Dr. William Harrison Frist (born February 22, 1952 in Nashville, Tennessee) is a former Republican U.S. Senator from Tennessee and a cardiac surgeon. On December 23, 2002 he was voted to succeed Trent Lott as Senate Majority Leader. He retired from the Senate in 2006.

Contents

Pre-Senate career

Frist graduated from Princeton University in 1974 and from Harvard Medical School, with his M.D., in 1978.

While in medical school, Frist made a practice of fraudulently adopting cats from animal shelters, then experimenting on and killing them. He later confessed to this behavior in his book "Transplant," calling it "a heinous and dishonest thing to do;" after becoming Senate Majority Leader.

In his medical practice, he specialized in heart transplants and lung transplants.

Frist was a member of Nashville's all-white Belle Meade Country Club from the 1980s to December 1993, during his first run for office. His family have long been members.

During his first campaign in 1994, Frist repeatedly accused his opponent, incumbent Senator Jim Sasser, of "sending Tennessee money to Washington, to Marion Barry ... While I've been transplanting lungs and hearts to heal Tennesseans, Jim Sasser has been transplanting Tennesseans' wallets to Washington, home of Marion Barry." During that campaign, he also attacked Sasser for his attempt to become Senate Majority Leader, claiming that his opponent would be spending more time taking care of Senate business than Tennessee business. By 2002, Frist himself was a candidate for that position.

Beginning in the senate

In 1998 he visited African hospitals and schools with the Christian aid group Samaritan's Purse.

He first entered the national spotlight when two Washington police officers were shot outside the United States Capitol. Frist, the closest doctor, provided immediate medical attention. He also was the Congressional spokeman during the 2001 Anthrax attacks and was able to present an informed opinion to the media.

2002 midterm elections and Trent Lott scandal

As the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he helped Republicans win back the Senate in the 2002 midterm elections. His committee collected $66.4 million in soft money for 2001-2002, 50% more than the previous year. Shortly afterwards, Senator Trent Lott made comments at a Strom Thurmond birthday celebration that raised questions about Lott's past with racial issues. In the aftermath, Lott resigned his position as Senate Majority Leader and Frist was chosen by Senate Republicans as his replacement.

As Senate Majority Leader

On January 2, 2003, while on vacation, Frist happened upon an SUV crash near Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Frist stopped his car and helped the victims of the accident until emergency workers arrived. "It made all the difference; his help was invaluable, he really went above and beyond the call to help," emergency workers said.

In the 2003 legislative session, Frist enjoyed many successes. He was able to push many initiatives through to fruition, including a the third major tax cut of the Bush administration and a ban on so-called partial-birth abortions. However, his tactics used to achieve those victories alienated many Democrats. 2004, by comparison, has seen no major legislative successes, with the explanations ranging from delay tactics by Democrats to lack of unity within the Republican Party.

Frist is widely seen as a potential presidential candidate for the Republican party, much in the same tradition as Bob Dole, a previous holder of the Senate Majority Leader position. However, there has been increasing dissent within the Republican caucus over his handling of the Majority Leader position, and his near invisibility as a spokesman for the Republican caucus, which has damaged his reputation. His supporters within the caucus point to his success in moving tax legislation important to the executive branch as a sign that he is simply filling his place on the team, namely to bring important bills to a vote, and then ensure that gains made on the floor are preserved in the conference committee process.

Frist has pledged to leave the Senate after two terms, which would be in 2006. Another interesting fact, in the the 11/17/94 issue of Roll Call it was stated that he *Had never voted in an election before 1988."

Interests

In June, 1989, Frist published his first book, Transplant: A Heart Surgeon's Account of the Life-And-Death Dramas of the New Medicine. In October, 1999, Frist co-authored Tennessee Senators, 1911-2001: Portraits of Leadership in a Century of Change with J. Lee Annis. In March, 2002, Frist published his third book, When Every Moment Counts: What You Need to Know About Bioterrorism from the Senate's Only Doctor. While generally received well, the book later invoked anger among some at a perceived hypocrisy with his remarks about Richard Clarke, stating "I am troubled that someone would sell a book, trading on their service as a government insider with access to our nation's most valuable intelligence, in order to profit from the suffering that this nation endured on September 11, 2001." In response, readers "monkeywrenched" the Amazon.com user reviews of his book [1]. In December of 2003, Frist and coauthor Shirley Wilso released Good People Beget Good People: A Genealogy of the Frist Family, to lukewarm reviews.

Senator Frist has also been a pilot since the age of 16.

Frist has a $20 million fortune, most of it in stock in Hospital Corporation of America, the for-profit hospital chain founded by his brother and father.

Ideology and issues

Frist is a legislative specialist issues of concern to the health care industry. Health care has been his primary legislative focus. He and other conservative Republicans oppose guarantees that health care will be provided to all Americans, if necessary through programs funded by the government. Provision of health care in this manner is the norm in all of the other advanced industrial democracies. The argument used against such programs is that will impose rationing of health care services. Markets for health care services, claim conservative Republicans, are superior mechanisms.

Frist is part of the Christian Right. He opposes abortion except in the instances of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is threatened. He is opposed to federal funding of abortion. In the Senate, he led the fight against Intact dilation and extraction. He has also taken positions on AIDS and African poverty, issues closely linked in the minds of many white conservative voters. After 9/11, he developed an interest in bioterrorism.

Flu shot controversy

Given Frist's professed anxiety about government rationing of health care services, it is ironic that he turned his Senate office into a makeshift clinic for members of Congress to receive flu shots days prior to October 5, 2004, when the Federal government asked healthy adults to forego the vaccinations because of a nation-wide shortage. Some of the Congressmen Frist treated took the shot under advice from their doctors. However it is common for high-ranking officials to obtain such privileges both as a result of influence and as a result of the fact that they are an important component of the government and their incapacitation would hamper its operation.

Campaign finance

From 1997 to 2002, Frist's primary donors were health professionals ($600,000) and money-management companies ($265,000), Federal Express ($30,000), Vanderbilt University ($30,000), Powell Construction ($25,000), and HCA ($25,000).

No Intelligence Reform

On February 19, 2006, Frist stated on CBS's Face the Nation that no new intelligence legislation was needed and hat cort orders aren't needed before eavesdropping. Source: Deb Reichmann. "Frist: No New Spy Legislation Needed." Associated Press. February 20, 2006.

Sources

  • Matt Gouras. "Frist Defends Flu Shots for Congress." Associated Press. October 21, 2004.

External links and references

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