In a move thatsurprised many in Washington, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle
withdrew his nomination to be the next Secretary of Health and Human Services, the nation's top health care post.
As late as yesterday President Obama was still doing personal outreach to Senators to urge his confirmation. Daschle's nomination hit a roadblock when it was revealed that he had about $140,000 in unpaid taxes (largely stemming from a personal driver that he had been "given" by a wealthy fundraiser). Daschle's
income since losing his Senate seat in 2004 had come under scrutiny as well. This morning's
NY Times editorial calling him to withdraw might have been the final straw.
I have just informed the president that I am withdrawing my name from consideration for Secretary of Health and Human Services. ...[I] f 30 years of exposure to the challenges inherent in our system has taught me anything, it has taught me that this work will require a leader who can operate with the full faith of Congress and the American people, and without distraction. Right now, I am not that leader, and will not be a distraction. The focus of Congress should be on the urgent business moving the President's economic agenda forward, including affordable health care for every American.
We need the best care in America to be available to all Americans. We need this effort to succeed. Lives and livelihoods are at stake. I will not be the architect of America's health system reform, but I remain one of its most fervent supporters. Thank you.
This photo used with a Creative Commons license from the Obama-Biden Transition Project's Photostream, (http://flickr.com/photos/changedotgov).
The White House has confirmed that Daschle will not serve as "Health Care Czar" either, a special position that Daschle was expected to fill.
Daschle was a uniquely qualified candidate for HHS Secretary: he had peerless familiarity with the way Congress works, the experience of the Clinton health care reform failure under his belt, the respect of members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, former aides and supporters spread throughout HHS and Congress, and a well-developed idea of how health care reform could actually be written into legislation and implemented. He also had a long history of support for addiction treatment, particularly surrounding