“There were no other names,” said one administration ally who was not permitted to speak on the record about the Daschle saga.
“The game plan changes when you need to swap out your quarterback,” said Dan Mendelson, a former Clinton administration official who now owns a health consulting company. “Congress writes the laws. The Obama administration really understands that.”
Yesterday, Daschle withdrew his name after acknowledging he paid $146,000 in back taxes and interest. Now Obama must forge ahead without his close friend and Washington mentor, a setback that health experts across the political spectrum described yesterday as serious but not insurmountable.
“I think Tom Daschle would have been the best person to help shepherd through a health-care bill through a very difficult process in Congress,” Obama said on ABC News. “I regret the fact that he’s not going to be serving, but we’re going to move forward.”
By Ceci Connolly
The Washington Post
Former Sen. Tom Daschle, President Barack Obama’s choice to head the Health and Human Services, is followed by reporters as he leaves a closed session meeting with the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill, Monday, Feb. 2, 2009, in Washington.(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
The embarrassing departure of any Cabinet choice complicates the work of the White House. But the announcement yesterday that Daschle was withdrawing his nomination and also resigning from the health czar job created especially for him was a particularly damaging blow to the new administration.
When Obama named him in mid-December, Daschle seemed the “ideal choice,” in the words of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). “Exceptionally well-qualified to bring people together,” insurers proclaimed. Official Washington said Obama had demonstrated that he possessed the commitment and smarts to tap a savvy insider to achieve something the Clintons could not.
“Senator Daschle had two things going for him that were very formidable characteristics,” said Robert E. Moffit, director of the Center for Health Policy Studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “He was a leader in the U.S. Senate, a member of the club, and he was probably one of the most knowledgeable people in health policy. For the Obama administration, that was a powerful tactical weapon.”