A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Daschle for HHS?

Daschle for HHS?

June 5, 2008

Online chatter today that a President Obama might choose former Senator Tom Daschle as his Secretary of Health and Human Services. It's way, way too early to speculate, and the main-stream speculation has been that Daschle would make an outstanding chief of staff.

This was in Congress Daily, a capitol hill insider newsletter:

“Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota has no interest in the vice presidency or in serving as chief of staff if Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois is elected president, but sources say he is interested in universal health care and might relish serving as HHS secretary. Daschle, an early and ardent backer of Obama's bid for the White House and a key player in President Clinton's push for universal health care in 1993, told CongressDaily he hopes he can be helpful, perhaps in a prospective Obama administration, on healthcare reform."

Blogger Ezra Klein loves the idea:

What the next president needs in is Health and Human Services Secretary isn't merely someone who knows health care, but someone who knows how to work with Congress. Clinton's nominee for that position, Donna Shalala, was a longtime academic whose governmental experience amounted to three years as Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at HUD. In the 70s. It wasn't enough. Not only was Shalala unable to achieve congressional buy-in, but she didn't convince the president that congressional involvement was of central importance.

Daschle, by contrast, is a former Senate majority leader who not only understands the chamber he once led, but knows most everyone in it. Senators I've interviewed hold him in tremendously high esteem. He'd be able to walk those halls comfortably. Just as important, he's got a depth of congressional experience that Barack Obama simply lacks, and would thus have the credibility to shape Obama's strategy in a way that makes sense for pushing his legislation through the Senate. It would, in sum, be a smart pick that suggests Obama understands he'll need to marry his policy goals to the congressional politics on this issue. Watching where Daschle ends up -- if anywhere -- in an Obama administration is probably one of the best indicators of whether Obama is serious and smart about pursuing health reform.

Before he became totally wrapped up with the Obama campaign, Daschle was planning on touring the country with a Al Gore-style slide show on health care, in support of his book. One of his key ideas is creating a "federal reserve" for health, to set national coverage standards, reduce overhead, and promote quality (brief explanation here). You can read an interesting interview with him on his health ideas here.