Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination as health secretary today following growing criticism of his failure to pay more than $120,000 in taxes, according to published reports. At least two newspapers, The New York Times today and The Wall Street Journal yesterday, ran editorials calling for the former South Dakota senator and minority leader to step aside.

Pres. Obama named Daschle as his pick to head up the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on December 11. He was a close advisor to Obama throughout the presidential campaign, and advocated for more expansive health coverage, especially for the estimated 47 million Americans without insurance.

Daschle, a Democrat who served 18 years in the Senate, also fought hard for former Pres. Clinton's health reform plan, which would have created universal coverage.

As HHS secretary, Daschle would have overseen a number of federal agencies, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Obama said he accepted Daschle's withdrawal "with sadness and regret," according to the Associated Press.

Image of Tom Daschle by U.S. Senate via Wikimedia Commons