President-elect Barack Obama is moving quickly in selecting former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle as the potential secretary of Health and Human Services. Daschle has been a close advisor to Obama and may now be the administration’s point person on moving health reform legislation through Congress. Reform advocates consider the selection a sign that the Obama administration will seek to fulfill its promises to make health reform a top priority.
Daschle’s familiarity with health policy issues is evident in the book he co-authored earlier this year: “Critical: What We Can Do about the Health-Care Crisis.” But with less administrative experience than the governors who preceded him, Daschle will need capable deputies to oversee key HHS agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and Medicare and Medicaid.
The former Senator from South Dakota lost his seat in a hard-fought battle in 2004. He was criticized then as too much of a Washington insider, and his nomination provoked similar comments from some parties. But most observers regard the appointment as realistic assessment that consummate political skill is needed to reform the nation’s healthcare system.