Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson says he is "not committed" to his role in the Bush administration past February 2003 and that he has already considered offers to return to the private sector at that time, the Chicago Tribune reports. Thompson said he told Bush he would serve for two years. "I certainly will comply with that. If he wants me to stay after the [November 2002] election, we'll sit down and talk." Thompson, who was the focus of an angry protest over U.S. AIDS policy in July at the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, added that he has received job offers from the private sector, though he did not elaborate.
Some political observers had predicted that Thompson would be the first Bush cabinet member to leave Washington because of Thompson's disagreement with Bush over embryonic stem-cell research. Thompson spokesman Tony Jewell said that Thompson's comments do not indicate that he has definitely decided to leave HHS in February. "He very much enjoys his job here at HHS," Jewell said, adding that Thompson's comments were meant only to show residents of Wisconsin, his home state, that he misses them.