Daschle Is Obama's Pick to Lead HHS
Former Sen. Daschle Expected to Be the Nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary
Nov. 21, 2008 -- By selecting former Sen. Tom Daschle, D, S.D., to head the
Department of Health and Human Services, President-elect Barack Obama has found
a point person for sweeping health care reform who shares his bipartisan
approach to politics.
Obama has yet to formally announce the appointment, but major news outlets
-- based on comments from Democratic party insiders -- report that the
president-elect has offered the cabinet post to the 60-year-old Daschle, and
that he accepted it. The Senate must confirm the appointment.
Since leaving the Senate after losing to Republican challenger John Thune in
2004, Daschle has burnished both his health care and bipartisan credentials. He
and three other former Senate majority leaders -- Republicans Bob Dole and
Howard Baker and Democrat George Mitchell -- formed the Bipartisan Policy
Center in 2007 to tackle health care reform and other social issues. Daschle
also joined the law and lobbying firm of Alston & Bird as a special policy
advisor, with health care as one of his strong suits. That's where his old
rival Bob Dole also works on health care issues as a special counsel.
In addition to serving as HHS secretary, Daschle will head the Obama
administration's policy-making group on health care. His goal will be turning
Obama's health care campaign promises into a detailed legislative
Clues on what Daschle might want to achieve in his two new roles can be
gleaned from a book that he co-authored titled Critical: What We Can Do
About the Health Care Crisis. In the book, published earlier this year,
Daschle proposes creating a national agency that would oversee the health care
system in the same way the Federal Reserve oversees the country's financial
While speculation brews about Daschle's effect on the massive health care
sector, Obama already has been criticized for choosing a cabinet member with an
arguable conflict of interest, something Obama promised not to do. Daschle not
only works for a firm that represents health care companies (although he is not
a registered lobbyist), he also serves on the board of the Mayo Clinic.
Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant said in a statement:
"For voters hoping to see new faces and fewer lobbyist connections in
government, Daschle's nomination will be another disappointment."
Proponents of making health care more accessible and affordable, however,
are applauding Obama's pick. "The appointment of Senator Daschle as
Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services is the best news
possible for those who want to achieve meaningful health care reform," said
Families USA executive director Ron Pollack in a statement posted on the
group's web site. "Senator Daschle has a deep commitment to securing
high-quality, affordable health care for everyone in our nation. His new
leadership position confirms that the incoming Obama Administration has made
health care reform a top and early priority for action in 2009."