Bill Frist Official Photo 2013
United States Senator
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 2007
|Preceded by||Jim Sasser|
|Succeeded by||Bob Corker|
|Senate Majority Leader|
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2007
|Preceded by||Tom Daschle|
|Succeeded by||Harry Reid|
William Harrison Frist
February 22, 1952
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Karyn Frist (1982-2012)
Tracy Roberts Frist (m. 2015)
|Residence||Belle Meade, Tennessee|
Princeton University (A.B.)
Harvard Medical School (M.D.)
William Harrison "Bill" Frist, Sr. (born February 22, 1952) is an American physician, businessman, and politician. He began his career as a heart and lung transplant surgeon. Frist later served two terms as a Republican United States Senator representing Tennessee, serving as Majority Leader from 2003 until his retirement in 2007.
- Childhood and medical career 1
- Entering politics 2
- National attention 3
- Political future 4
- ONE campaign 5
- Education reform 6
- Global Health and Hope Through Healing Hands 7
- Other professional and charitable activities 8
- Personal life 9
- Financial status 10
- Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) 11.1
- Campaign finance law violation 11.2
- Investigation into stock sales 11.3
- Schiavo case 11.4
- Medical school experiments 11.5
- Ideology and issues 12
- Electoral history 13
- References 14
- External links 15
Childhood and medical career
Frist graduated from Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee, and then from Princeton University in 1974, where he specialized in health care policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. In 1972, he held a summer internship with Tennessee Congressman Joe L. Evins, who advised Frist that if he wanted to pursue a political career, he should first have a career outside of politics. Frist proceeded to Harvard Medical School, where he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine with honors in 1978. While at Harvard he shared an apartment with future United States Congressman David Wu.
Frist joined the lab of W. John Powell Jr. at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1977, where he continued his training in cardiovascular physiology. He left the lab in 1978 to become a resident in surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1983, he spent time at Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, England as senior registrar in cardiothoracic surgery. He returned to Massachusetts General in 1984 as chief resident and fellow in cardiothoracic surgery. From 1985 until 1986, Frist was senior fellow and chief resident in cardiac transplant service and cardiothoracic surgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine. After completing his fellowship, he became a faculty member at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he began a heart and lung transplantation program. He also became staff surgeon at the Nashville Veterans Administration Hospital. In 1989, he founded the Vanderbilt Transplant Center. In 1991, Frist operated on then–Lieutenant Colonel David Petraeus after he had been shot in a training accident at Fort Campbell.
He is currently licensed as a physician, and is board certified in both general surgery and thoracic surgery. He has performed over 150 heart transplants and lung transplants, including pediatric heart transplants and combined heart and lung transplants.
In 1990, Frist met with former Senate Majority Leader Bush-Quayle 1992 campaign.
During the 1994 election, Frist promised not to serve for more than two terms, a promise he honored. He accused his opponent, incumbent Senator Jim Sasser, of "sending Tennessee money to Washington, DC", and said, "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 the campaign he also criticized Sasser for trying to become Senate Majority Leader, claiming that his opponent would be spending more time taking care of Senate business than Tennessee business. Frist won the election, defeating Sasser by 13 points in the 1994 Republican sweep of both Houses of Congress, thus becoming the first physician in the Senate since June 17, 1938, when Royal S. Copeland died.
United States Senate Majority Leader
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2007
|United States Senate|
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Tennessee
January 4, 1995 – January 3, 2007
Served alongside: Fred Thompson, Lamar Alexander
|Party political offices|
Republican nominee for United States Senator (Class 1) from Tennessee
Chairman of National Republican Senatorial Committee
Senate Republican Leader
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Tennessee Department of Health — Practitioner Profile (William H. Frist, MD)
- Hope Through Healing Hands
- SCORE (State Collaborative on Reforming Education)
- Facebook: Bill Frist
- J.R. Lind, A glimpse at the most expensive homes in Nashville, Nashville City Paper, August 26, 2012
- Ancestry of Bill Frist
- Frist, Bill (2009-01-04). "A Tremendous Personal Honor". VOLPAC. Archived from the original on January 6, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-06.
- "FEC Finds that Frist 2000 Violated Law". The New York Times. June 1, 2006
- "Text: Remarks by Sen. Frist to the Republican National Convention". The Washington Post (FDCH E-Media, Inc). August 31, 2004.
- Norman, Brett (September 16, 2012). "The Bill Frist Rx". Politico.
- Stolberg, Sheryl (30 July 2005). "Senate Leader Criticized and Praised for Stem Cell Shift". New York Times. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
- Babington, Charles (March 18, 2005). "Filibuster Precedent? Democrats Point to '68 and Fortas". The Washington Post. p. A03.
- MITCHELL, GEORGE J. (May 10, 2005). "The Not-So-Secret History of Filibusters". The New York Times.
- "Frist Decides Against ’08 Presidential Bid", The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2006
- Youngman, Sam (January 18, 2007). "Frist Looking at Governor Run in 2010". The Hill.
- "ABOUT US". SCORE. Retrieved 2013-02-13.
- "Reform Group to Release Study on TN Education". WSMV. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
- "The crucial need to hold students to a higher standard". The Week. Retrieved 2013-02-15.
- "Come together on education reform". Politico. Retrieved 2013-02-15.
- "How the U.S. can find and train more great teachers". The Week. Retrieved 2013-02-15.
- "Faculty Profile". Vanderbilt Owen School Web site. Archived from the original on 27 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-30.
- "Cressey & Company Forms Executive Board". PRNewswire. Reuters. June 9, 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
- "Bill Frist, Cressey & Co. open Nashville officeNashville". Business Journal. August 27, 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
- Frist, Bill (2009-01-04). "A Tremendous Personal Honor". VOLPAC. Archived from the original on 6 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
- "Frist joins Department of Cardiac Surgery faculty". Vanderbilt Reporter. September 15, 2011.
- "Dr. William Frist Joins Aegis Sciences as Health Care Advisor". Business Wire (press release). May 20, 2009.
- "Bill Frist joins board of engineering giant".
- "URS-Investor Relations-Board of Directors". Retrieved 4 September 2011.
- "Bolten '76, Frist '74 appointed to serve on Clinton Bush Haiti Fund's Board of Directors" by Daily Princetonian Staff, March 22, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-30.
- Bipartisan Policy Center To Announce New Health Project Led by Former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle and Bill Frist and Former Governor Ted Strickland
- "Peter Orszag, Bill Frist Elected to Board of Trustees". Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Press Release. July 25, 2012. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
- "The Honorable William H. Frist, MD Honorary Vice Chair". Partnership for A Healthier America. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
- "Peter Orszag, Bill Frist Elected to Board of Trustees" (Press release). Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. July 25, 2012.
- "Dr. Thomas Frist Sr., HCA Founder, Dies at 87". NYTimes. New York Times. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
- http://web.archive.org/web/20120913050057/http://www.sacbee.com/2012/09/10/4806707/bill-and-karyn-frist-end-marriage.html ""Bill and Karyn Frist end marriage after 31 years".
- "Former Senate leader Bill Frist weds Tracy Roberts". WashingtonPost.com. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
- Sen. Frist sells HCA stock; then price falls
- Frist family and Scully fund university projects
- Captain America: The Senator explains politics, the virtues of public service, and life in general beyond the Cottage Club
- Thornburgh, Nathan (13 August 2006). "How VIPs get in". Time.
- Frist Fails to Disclose Foundation Role
- Frist Not Charged as Investigators Close Probe of His Hospital Stock Sales Washington Post, April 27, 2007
- The Wall Street Journal http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2011/12/23/internet-poker-is-sort-of-legal/.
- "National Briefing – Washington: Election Panel Says Frist Campaign Violated Law". The New York Times. June 2, 2006.
- Birnbaum, Jeffrey H.; Smith, R. Jeffrey (September 24, 2005). "SEC, Justice Investigate Frist's Sale of Stock". The Washington Post.
- Davidson, Paul (September 29, 2005). "SEC launches formal investigation of Frist".
- Carrie Johnson, "Frist Not Charged as Investigators Close Probe of His Hospital Stock Sales". The Washington Post, April 27, 2007. Retrieved January 10, 2015, from HighBeam Research.
- Frist, Bill (2005). Bill Frist : a senator speaks out on ethics, respect and compassion. Washington, D.C.: Monument Press. p. 195.
- Letter: Frist Schiavo diagnosis being reviewed in Tennessee June 24, 2005
- Medical Examiner's Report on the Schiavo Autopsy June 13, 2005
- Kornblut, Anne E. (2005). "Schiavo Autopsy Renews Debate on G.O.P. Actions". The New York Times, June 16, 2005
- William H. Frist, MD, Transplant : A Heart Surgeon's Account of the Life-and-Death Dramas of the New Medicine, Fawcett; Reprint edition (August 28, 1990), ISBN 0-449-21905-4
- Kranish, Michael (October 27, 2002). "First Responder". Boston Globe Magazine. Archived from the original on November 1, 2002.
- Kerr, Gail (June 12, 2006). "Kitty-killer label litters Frist resume for president" (fee required).
- Frist Floor Statement on Partial-Birth Abortion
- Hebert, H. Josef (July 29, 2005). "Frist Breaks With Bush on Stem-Cell Bill". The Guardian (London). Associated Press. Archived from the original on July 31, 2005. Retrieved January 21, 2012.
- Tumulty, Karen (October 2, 2009). "Bill Frist on Health Bill: I’d Vote For It". Time. Retrieved January 21, 2012.
- Stein, Sam (January 18, 2011). "Bill Frist: Health Care Is 'Law Of The Land', GOP Should Drop Repeal And Build On It". Huffington Post.
|Tennessee United States Senate Election, 1994|
|Democratic||Jim Sasser (Incumbent)||623,164||42.10||-22.99|
|Republican gain from Democratic||Swing|
|Tennessee United States Senate Election, 2000|
|Republican||Bill Frist (Incumbent)||1,255,444||65.10||+8.75|
After leaving the Senate, during the health care reform debates, Frist stated that he would have broken with his party and would have voted in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was unanimously voted against by Republicans. In January 2011, after the Republicans regained a majority in the House, Frist called on them not to attempt to repeal the health care law.
In November 2005, Frist told reporters that he was less concerned about possible torture at CIA secret prisons than he was about potentially compromising the security of millions of Americans. Flying home after visiting the Guantanamo Bay detention center he said September 10, 2006 he expects bipartisan support for putting top captured al-Qaeda figures on trial before military commissions and for guidelines on how they should be treated. Frist visited the detention center in eastern Cuba, which holds some 460 detainees, including 14 top alleged al-Qaida figures recently transferred from CIA custody. He stated that his visit with fellow Republicans Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, was especially poignant coming one day short of the fifth anniversary of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. Frist said that visiting the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, and recognizing that the 14 individuals who likely contributed to the September 11, 2001 attacks were there, led him to realize how critical it is that the U.S. define the appropriate criteria to make sure that the government have the information to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again. The senators didn't see the 14 new detainees, but visited Guantanamo to learn of the interrogation techniques. In his mind, the detainees are being treated in a safe and humane way.
On education, Frist supports the No Child Left Behind Act, which passed in 2001 with bipartisan support. In August 2005, he announced his support for teaching intelligent design in public school science classes.
Frist supported a total ban on human cloning, including for embryonic stem cell research. Since 2001, Frist had stood beside Bush in his insistence that only currently existing lines be used for stem cell research. But in July 2005, after severely criticizing the MLO, Frist reversed course and endorsed a House-passed plan to expand federal funding of the research, saying "it's not just a matter of faith, it's a matter of science." Up to that point the legislation had been considered bottled up in the Senate. The decision quickly drew criticism from some Christian groups such as James Dobson, but garnered praise from some Democrats and many Republicans, including former First Lady Nancy Reagan.
Frist's primary legislative focus has been on issues of concern to the health care industry and on pro-life issues. He also opposes abortion and all federal funding of abortion. In the Senate, he led the fight against partial birth abortion, voted for the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 and against an amendment to include a woman's health exception (as he considered the procedure to be hazardous to a woman's health).
Ideology and issues
Frist's treatment of cats first became controversial in 1994, in his first Senate campaign, when the opposing camp in the Republican primary called him a cat-killer. The matter again created public controversy in 2002, after mention in a Boston Globe profile, published after his election as Senate majority leader.
While he was a medical school student in the 1970s, Frist performed fatal medical experiments and vivisection on shelter cats while researching the use of drugs on the mitral valve. By his own account, Frist improperly obtained these cats from Boston animal shelters, falsely telling shelter staff he was adopting the cats as pets. In his book, Frist asserted that he succumbed to the pressure to succeed in a highly competitive medical school.
Medical school experiments
In the Terri Schiavo case, a brain-damaged woman whose husband wanted to remove her gastric feeding tube, Frist opposed the removal and in a speech delivered on the Senate Floor, challenged the diagnosis of Schiavo's physicians of Schiavo being in a persistent vegetative state (PVS): "I question it based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office". Frist was criticized by a medical ethicist at Northwestern University for making a diagnosis without personally examining the patient and for questioning the diagnosis when he was not a neurologist. After her death, the autopsy showed signs of long-term and irreversible damage to a brain consistent with PVS. Frist defended his actions after the autopsy.
Frist was questioned in 2005 by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) about stock sales allegedly based on inside information. The investigation closed after 18 months and no charges were filed.
Investigation into stock sales
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) found that Frist's 2000 Senate campaign committee, Frist 2000, Inc., violated federal campaign finance laws. "In June 2000, Senator Frist took $1 million of the money that had been contributed to his 2000 Senate campaign and invested it in the stock market, where it promptly began losing money. In November 2000, Senator Frist sought to collect $1.2 million he had lent his 1994 Senate campaign committee. As a result of the stock market losses, however, Frist 2000, Inc. did not have enough money to repay the loan. Senator Frist solved this problem by having the 1994 and the 2000 campaign committees jointly take out a $1.44 million bank loan at a cost of $10,000 a month interest. Frist 2000, Inc. did not report this debt on its FEC disclosure forms." Frist paid a civil fine of $11,000 in a settlement with the FEC.
Campaign finance law violation
Just before Congress adjourned for the 2006 elections, in what politicos call a "midnight drop", Frist inserted the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) clauses into the larger, unrelated Security and Accountability for Every Port (SAFE) Act. The SAFE Act itself was a late "must pass" bill designed to safeguard ports from terrorist infiltration. In the Zogby International Poll, 87% believe online gambling is a personal choice which should not be banned. A Wall Street Journal Poll showed 85% oppose government prohibition of online gambling. The UIGEA became the basis for the April 15, 2011, US Department of Justice government crackdown and domain name seizure of three of the worlds top online poker sites, dubbed "black Friday" in the poker community. The DOJ Office of Legal Counsel subsequently issued an opinion in September 2011, stating that the UIGEA applies only to betting on sporting events and contests and not to other types of online gambling.
Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA)
The status of Frist's blind trust, and subsequent statements about it and activities within it led to an SEC Investigations of the trustees June 13, 2005 sale. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York issued subpoenas to investigate the sale, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission began an insider trading investigation of the sale. After an 18-month investigation, the SEC closed its probe without pressing charges. Frist said in a statement, "I've always conducted myself according to the highest ethical standards in both my personal and public life, and my family and I are pleased that this matter has been resolved." 
Bill and Karyn Frist are the sole trustees in charge of a family foundation bearing the senator's name, which had more than $2 million in assets in 2004. He and his siblings are vice presidents of another charitable foundation bearing their parents' names. Frist failed to list his positions with the two foundations on his Senate disclosure form. In July 2006, when the matter was raised by the Associated Press, his staff said the form would be amended. Frist has previously disclosed his board position with World of Hope, a charity that gives money to causes associated with AIDS. The charity has come under scrutiny for paying consulting fees to members of Frist's political inner circle.
Members of the Frist family have been major donors to Princeton University, pledging a reported $25 million in 1997 for the construction of the Frist Campus Center. Frist has said that, a few years after his 1974 graduation from Princeton, "I made a commitment to myself that if I was ever in a position to help pull together the resources to establish a center [on the Princeton campus] where there could be an informal exchange of ideas, and to establish an environment that is conducive to the casual exchange of information, I would do so." Daniel Golden, a Wall Street Journal journalist and author of the book The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges — and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates, has suggested that two of Frist's sons (Harrison and Bryan) were admitted to Princeton as recognition of this donation rather than their own academic and extracurricular merit.
Frist has a fortune in the millions of dollars, most of it the result of his ownership of stock in Hospital Corporation of America, the for-profit hospital chain founded by his brother and father. Frist's 2005 financial disclosure form lists blind trusts valued between $15 million and $45 million.
On May 29, 2015, Frist married Tracy Lynne Roberts (b. April 14, 1962). The couple resides in Belle Meade, Tennessee.
In 1982, Frist married Karyn McLaughlin. Frist recounted in his 2009 memoir meeting his future wife in 1979 when he attended to her at a clinic in Boston. He was engaged to another woman in Tennessee and broke it off a week before the wedding. They have three sons: Harrison, Jonathan, and Bryan. The Frist family were members of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.. Karyn Frist reportedly filed for divorce on September 7, 2012.
Bill Frist is the son of Thomas F. Frist, Sr. and Dorothy Cate. He has four siblings: businessman and philanthropist Thomas F. Frist, Jr.; Dr. Robert A. Frist; Dorothy F. Boensch; and Mary F. Barfield.
Frist is a founding circle member of The Nantucket Project, an annual conference that takes place on Nantucket, Massachusetts.
Frist is on the Board of Selectors of Jefferson Awards for Public Service.
Frist also leads medical mission trips to recent disaster sites around the globe, including New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Sri Lanka after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
In July 2012, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) announced that Frist had been elected to its Board of Trustees, effective in January 2013. RWJF is the largest health-oriented foundation in the United States. His other board service includes First Lady Michelle Obama's "Partnership for a Healthier America" campaign to eliminate childhood obesity within a generation, the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Harvard Medical School Board of Fellows, and the Advisory Committees for Global Health at Duke and Harvard. He is also on the advisory board for technologically innovative healthcare companies ZocDoc and aTherapy.
Frist also serves as a Senior Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, where he is a co-leader of the Health Project
In March 2010, Frist was appointed a member of the six-person board of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, which had raised $66 million to date for immediate earthquake relief and long-term recovery efforts in the Caribbean country. Frist had also traveled to Haiti with Samaritan's Purse in January 2010 and with the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund in June 2012.
On November 2009, Frist joined the board of directors of engineering, construction and technical services firm URS Corp. to bring his expertise and unique perspective on a wide range of economic issues.
In May 2009, Frist joined forensic chemical and drug-testing laboratory Aegis Sciences Corp. as a health care advisor and member of its board of directors. His new responsibilities include assisting in Aegis's development of a strategic alliance with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, providing counsel on the company's research and development for new laboratory-based toxicology assessments, and advise Aegis on general health care issues.
 He is currently adjunct professor of Surgery in the Department of Cardiac Surgery at Vanderbilt and clinical professor of Surgery at Meharry Medical College. In 2009, Frist began teaching at  In 2008, he became a partner in Chicago-based Cressey & Co. investing in the nation's health care market.
In 1998 Frist visited African hospitals and schools with the Christian aid group Samaritan's Purse. Frist has continued to make medical mission trips to Africa every year since 1998. He has also been vocal in speaking out against the genocide occurring in Darfur.
With J. H. Helderman, he edited "Grand Rounds in Transplantation" in 1995. In October 1999, Frist co-authored Tennessee Senators, 1911–2001: Portraits of Leadership in a Century of Change with J. Lee Annis, Jr. 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 well received, the book later spurred accusations of hypocrisy regarding his remarks about Richard Clarke. When Clarke published his book Against All Enemies in 2004, Frist stated "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 December 2003, Frist and co-author Shirley Wilson released the self-promoting book, Good People Beget Good People: A Genealogy of the Frist Family.
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 which he wrote, "A doctor is a man whose job justifies everything . . . Life [is] a gift, not an inalienable right."
Other professional and charitable activities
HTHH's flagship program is the Frist Global Health Leaders program. This program sponsors young health professionals as students and residents to travel to underserved areas to promote peace through health in communities and clinical settings. These students spend between one-three month(s) focusing on service to those in need, alongside the work of training community health workers.
Since 2004 HTHH has invested more than $3.5 million in charities in both the United States and abroad. These investments have been in support of infrastructure, sustainable health development, education, healthcare, and emergency relief.
Under the umbrella of health diplomacy, HTHH includes efforts for child survival/maternal health, clean water, extreme poverty, and global disease such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and Malaria. Strategically, HTHH promotes global partnership by working hand-in-hand with leading organizations that best address these issues in developing nations.
In addition to Senator Frist's decades of medical mission work and commitments to other global health organizations, his main thrust in global health is via his Nashville-based Hope Through Healing Hands (HTHH), a nonprofit 501(c) 3 whose mission is to promote improved quality of life for citizens and communities around the world using health as a currency for peace. Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D. has served as CEO/Executive Director since 2008.
Global Health and Hope Through Healing Hands
Frist has voiced support for higher academic standards in grades K-12, reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and improving efforts to identify, foster, and reward effective teaching.
As part of SCORE's work, Frist presents the State of Education in Tennessee report at the beginning of each year, a comprehensive look at the state's efforts to improve public education. SCORE also awards the SCORE Prize on an annual basis, which is given annually to the elementary, middle, and high school in Tennessee, along with one school district, that have most dramatically improved student achievement.
In 2009, Frist launched a statewide education reform nonprofit organization targeting K-12 education called SCORE (State Collaborative on Reforming Education). The organization's mission is to "collaboratively support Tennessee's work to prepare students for college and the workforce." Frist serves as the Chairman of SCORE's Board of Directors.
After his Senate career he became a Co-Chair of ONE VOTE '08, an initiative of the  He traveled to Africa in support of various initiatives for the ONE campaign in July 2008 and an extensive blog about his trip exists, complete with videos.
Frist's name was mentioned as a possible candidate for Governor of Tennessee in 2010 when incumbent Governor Phil Bredesen was barred from running again due to term limits. Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Bob Davis has said that "he'd have a lot of support" if he chose to run. However, Frist announced that he had decided not to seek that office in January 2009.
Frist was seen as a potential presidential candidate for the Republican party in 2008, like Bob Dole, a previous holder of the Senate Majority Leader position. On November 28, 2006, however, he announced that he had decided not to run, and would return to the field of medicine.
Frist pledged to leave the Senate after two terms in 2006, and did not run in the 2006 Republican primary for his Senate seat. He campaigned heavily for Republican nominee Bob Corker, who won by a small margin over Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. in the general election.
In September 2006, working with Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, Frist was a major Senate supporter of H.R. 4411 — the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. Frist's bill called for restrictions on banking transactions for online gambling, while Frist has received contributions from land-based casinos. The bill, which passed without debate as part of the SAFE Port Act, also allowed horse racing and lotteries to remain legal.
More criticism of perceived weakness came in the midst of an extended confirmation fight over Bush's pick for US ambassador to the Ohio). On June 21, 2005, Frist said the situation had been "exhausted" and there would be no more votes. Only an hour later, after speaking to the White House, Frist said: "The president made it very clear he wants an up-or-down vote." This sudden switch in strategy led to charges of flip-flopping in response to pressure from the Bush administration. Nevertheless, no up-and-down vote was held, and Bush made a recess appointment of Bolton.
There has also been controversy regarding the "nuclear option", under which the Republicans would change a rule in the Senate to prevent the filibuster of judicial nominations. Although Frist claimed that "[n]ever before has a minority blocked a judicial nominee that has majority support for an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor," critics pointed to the nearly two-century history of the filibuster, including the successful four-day 1968 minority Republican filibuster of Lyndon Johnson's chief justice nominee, Abe Fortas. Also, in 1998 Frist participated in the Republican filibuster to stall the nomination of openly gay James C. Hormel to be ambassador to Luxembourg; Hormel eventually received a recess appointment from President Bill Clinton, bypassing a Senate vote. Frist also helped block the 1996 nomination of Richard Paez to the 9th Federal Court of Appeals, a four-year filibuster that was defeated in 2000 when 14 Republicans dropped their support for it and allowed Paez to be confirmed by a simple majority.
Many of Frist's opponents have attacked him for what they see as pandering to future Republican primary voters. They claim that he has taken extreme positions on social issues such as the Terri Schiavo case in order to please them. On the other hand, Frist changed his position on stem cell research. Frist received enormous praise from former First Lady Nancy Reagan for supporting expanded federal financing for stem cell research.
Frist received some criticism within the Republican caucus in the Senate 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 pointed to his success in moving tax legislation important to the executive branch as a sign that he was simply filling his place on the team, namely to bring important bills to a vote, and then ensure that gains made on the floor were preserved in the conference committee process.
During the 2004 election season, Frist employed the unprecedented political tactic of going to the home state of the opposition party's minority leader, Democrat Tom Daschle of South Dakota, and actively campaigning against him. Daschle's Republican opponent, John Thune, defeated Daschle. In Daschle's farewell address, Frist arrived late. The two men, however, have since found common ground and work together at the Bipartisan Policy Center and often speak together for healthcare conventions and events. After the 2004 elections, Frist played a role in the controversy over Arlen Specter's post-election remarks. Frist demanded a public statement from Specter in which Specter would repudiate his earlier remarks and pledge support for Bush's judiciary nominees. Frist rejected an early version of the statement as too weak, and gave his approval to the statement that Specter eventually delivered.
In a prominent and nationally broadcast speech to the Republican National Convention in August 2004, Frist highlighted his background as a doctor and focused on several issues related to health care. He spoke in favor of the recently passed Medicare prescription drug benefit and the passage of legislation providing for Health Savings Accounts. He described President Bush's policy regarding stem cell research, limiting embryonic stems cells to certain existing lines, as "ethical". In an impassioned argument for medical malpractice tort reform, Frist called personal injury trial lawyers "predators": "We must stop them from twisting American medicine into a litigation lottery where they hit the jackpot and every patient ends up paying." Frist has been an advocate for imposing caps on the amount of money courts can award plaintiffs for noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases.
In the 2003 legislative session, Frist enjoyed many successes. He was able to push many initiatives through to fruition, including the Bush administration's third major tax cut and legislation that was against partial-birth abortion. However, the tactics that he used to achieve those victories alienated many Democrats. He also was instrumental in developing and then passing the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the historic and unprecedented funding commitment to fight disease. In 2004, by comparison, he saw no major legislative successes, with the explanations ranging from delay tactics by Democrats to lack of unity within the Republican Party.
As the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he helped Republicans win back the Senate in the 2002 midterm election. His committee collected $66.4 million for 2001–2002, 50% more than the previous year. Shortly afterwards, Senator Trent Lott made comments at a Strom Thurmond birthday celebration in which he said that if Thurmond's presidential bid of 1948 had succeeded, "we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years". In the aftermath, Lott resigned his position as Senate Majority Leader and Frist was chosen unanimously by Senate Republicans as his replacement. He became the third youngest Senate Majority Leader in US history. In his 2005 book, Herding Cats, A Lifetime in Politics, Lott accuses Frist of being "one of the main manipulators" in the debate that ended Lott's leadership in the Republican Senate. Lott wrote that Frist's actions amounted to a "personal betrayal". Frist "... didn't even have the courtesy to call and tell me personally that he was going to run ... If Frist had not announced exactly when he did, as the fire was about to burn out, I would still be majority leader of the Senate today," Lott wrote.
Frist first entered the national spotlight when two Capitol police officers were shot inside the United States Capitol by Russell Eugene Weston Jr. in 1998. Frist, the closest doctor, provided immediate medical attention (he was unable to save the two officers, but was able to save Weston). He also was the Congressional spokesman during the 2001 anthrax attacks.