Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) has accepted an offer from President-elect Barack Obama to become the new HHS secretary, according to Democratic officials, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Freking, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 11/19). Obama likely will make an official announcement about the nomination of Daschle early next week, according to a Democratic official familiar with the process (Hook et al., “The Swamp,” Chicago Tribune, 11/19). According to the AP/Chronicle, the “job is Daschle’s barring an unforeseen problem as Obama’s team reviews” his background.
Daschle, who lost his Senate seat in 2004, currently serves as a public policy adviser and member of the legislative and public policy group at the law firm Alston & Bird, but he is not a registered lobbyist (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 11/19). “Daschle will likely face easy confirmation by his former Senate colleagues,” Reuters reports (Smith, Reuters, 11/19).
“Daschle could end up being the point man on any efforts to overhaul the country’s health care delivery and insurance system, a tall order, health policy experts say, given the current economic situation,” the New York Times’ “The Caucus” reports (Cooper, “The Caucus,” New York Times, 11/19). According to the Wall Street Journal, Daschle “is expected to play an important role in moving Mr. Obama’s ambitious health care agenda through Congress” (Meckler/Weisman, Wall Street Journal, 11/20). “Daschle has positioned himself as Obama’s central adviser on efforts to dramatically expand health care coverage next year, while at the same time lowering costs,” according to the Washington Post’s “44″ (Connolly/Cillizza, “44,” Washington Post, 11/19). Senate Democrats said that Daschle “would greatly help with efforts to overhaul the health care system next year,” CQ Today reports (Wayne, CQ Today, 11/19).
On Wednesday, the Obama transition team announced that Daschle will lead a transition policy working group on health care (Cooper/Baker, New York Times, 11/20). According to the Times’ “The Caucus,” Daschle “was concerned that he not just be the head of a huge bureaucracy but a chief player on the subject he has literally written a book on” (“The Caucus,” New York Times, 11/19).
In February, Daschle wrote a book about health care policy titled “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health Care Crisis.” In the book, Daschle proposed to establish a board modeled on the Federal Reserve Board to “offer a public framework within which a private health care system can operate more effectively and efficiently — insulated from political pressure yet accountable to elected officials and the American people” (Goldstein, “Health Blog,” Wall Street Journal, 11/19).
He serves as a senior fellow and a board member at the Center for American Progress. In addition, Daschle serves on the advisory boards of Intermedia Partners and BP America, as well as on the boards of CB Richard Ellis, Mascoma, Prime BioSolutions, The Freedom Forum, the Mayo Clinic, the LBJ Foundation, and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. Daschle also is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 11/19). He co-chaired the ONE Vote ’08 campaign to address health care and poverty issues in developing nations (Rhee, “Political Intelligence,” Boston Globe, 11/19).
Reaction From Lawmakers
House Rules Committee Chair Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said that she hopes Daschle can “go down deep and clean out some of the 19th-century ideas at HHS” implemented by the Bush administration (Bellantoni, Washington Times, 11/20).
Daschle “knows health care, he knows the Congress and the rhythms of the Senate in particular,” Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said (Talev, McClatchy/Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/20).
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said, “Tom Daschle sees this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” adding, “On the premier domestic issue of our time, the president-elect sees Tom Daschle with the skills and abilities to bring people together and get this over the finish line” (Connolly, Washington Post, 11/20).
Republican National Committee spokesperson Alex Conant said, “Barack Obama is filling his administration with long-time Washington insiders. Since losing his Senate seat, Tom Daschle has worked for a major lobbying firm. For voters hoping to see new faces and fewer lobbyist connections in government, Daschle’s nomination will be another disappointment. Obama promised to change America’s health care system, but his nominee to be secretary is no change agent” (“The Swamp,” Chicago Tribune, 11/19).
Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman said, “You wouldn’t appoint Tom Daschle to be secretary” of HHS “if you weren’t serious about making health care reform a priority” (Hook/Levey, Baltimore Sun, 11/20).
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said, “Sen. Daschle has a deep commitment to securing high-quality, affordable health care for everyone in our nation,” adding, “His new leadership position confirms that the incoming Obama administration has made health care reform a top and early priority for action in 2009″ (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 11/19).
AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond said, “Senator Daschle would bring a wealth of experience to HHS as the new Congress and administration begin their work to solve our health care crisis” (Reuters, 11/19).
Former Rep. John Porter (R-Ill.), chair of Research! America, said of Daschle, “He’ll do an outstanding job” (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 11/19).
ABC’s “World News Tonight” on Wednesday reported on the Daschle nomination (Stark et al., “World News Tonight,” ABC, 11/19).
CNN’s “CNN Newsroom” on Wednesday reported on the Daschle nomination (Henry, “CNN Newsroom,” CNN, 11/19).
CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight” on Wednesday reported on possible ties between Daschle and the pharmaceutical industry (Dobbs, “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” CNN, 11/19). A transcript of the show is available online.
CNN’s “Situation Room” on Wednesday reported on the Daschle nomination (Blitzer, “Situation Room,” CNN, 11/19). A transcript of the show is available online.
Fox News’ “Special Report with Brit Hume” on Wednesday reported on the Daschle nomination (Angle, “Special Report with Brit Hume,” Fox News, 11/19).
NPR’s “Day to Day” on Wednesday reported on the Daschle nomination (Brand/Elving, “Day to Day,” 11/19).
NPR’s “Morning Edition” on Thursday reported on the Daschle nomination (Rovner/Inskeep, “Morning Edition,” NPR, 11/20).
Reprinted with kind permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
© 2008 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.