Who will President Obama pick as health secretary to replace first choice Tom Daschle, who bowed out after being hit for failing to pay more than $120,000 in taxes?
Not sure, say news reports, noting that the new administration was so certain the former South Dakota senator – a close Obama adviser and friend —- had the job wrapped up that there were no other names on the table. “There was no Plan B,” senior Obama adviser David Axelrod tells the New York Times today. “Our intent was that he would serve.”
The Times and The New Republic quote Democratic sources as saying that the administration is considering several Democratic governors for the post. Among them: Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, an early Obama supporter and previously her state’s insurance commissioner, Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, and former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, who was an emergency room doctor.
Daschle, who authored the 2008 book Critical: What We can Do About the Healthcare Crisis, was actually up for two slots: HHS secretary and head of a new White House Office of Health Reform. The latter was to function as a kind of health-reform czar, coordinating efforts across government to revamp the nation’s health system. Its deputy, Jeanne Lambrew, an associate professor of public affairs at the University of Texas in Austin and coauthor of Daschle's tome, may be tapped for the top spot there, according to the Times.
Obama made health care a prominent theme of his campaign. How will Daschle’s withdrawal affect reform of the U.S. health-care system? “Daschle had a direct line to Obama, a result of the relatively long relationship the two men had. That gave the health team clout. And clout matters at a time when, inevitably, budget resources are going to be scarce--and legislative priorities are still not definitive,” Jonathan Cohn writes in TNR. “At the very least, a planning process that was not only well underway but starting to near completion will now have to go on hold, at least for a little while, as the administration cleans up the damage of this mess.”
Bonus: We asked our Twitter followers this morning whom they thought should get the job. Some responses: Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, pediatrician-turned-Vermont governor-turned Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean, surgeon and New Yorker staff writer Atul Gawande, and Ezekiel Emanuel. Emanuel, for those of you don’t know, is a bioethicist at the NIH, and the brother of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.
Image © iStockphoto/Mustafa Deliormanli