Tom Daschle, President Obama’s pick for secretary of Health & Human Services, withdrew his nomination today, citing the distraction surrounding his failure to pay all of his taxes in recent years. Daschle also will not serve as the nation’s health care czar.
From the Washington Post:
Daschle, a former Senate majority leader, had come under pressure since Friday, when it was reported that he did not pay more than $100,000 in back taxes, primarily for the use of a car and driver that was given to him by an associate. He met yesterday with members of the Senate Finance Committee to explain the omission and apologized. But some Republicans had questioned whether the nomination should go forward and his confirmation vote has been postponed until at least the middle of next week.
Obama said yesterday that he supported Daschle’s nomination “absolutely.”
But after days of mounting questions about the apparent ethical loopholes in the new administration, the president said today that he had accepted Daschle’s decision to withdraw.
“This morning, Tom Daschle asked me to withdraw his nomination,” Obama said in a statement. “I accept his decision with sadness and regret.” Obama said Daschle had “devoted his life to public service and health care reform, so that every American has access to health care they can afford.”
Daschle said in statement that being selected to lead HHS was “one of the signal honors of an improbable career.” He continued:
“But if 30 years of exposure to the challenges inherent in our system has taught me anything, it has taught me that this work will require a leader who can operate with the full faith of Congress and the American people, and without distraction,” Daschle said. “Right now, I am not that leader.”
“I will not be the architect of America’s health care reform, but I remain one of its most fervent supporters,” Daschle said.
The obvious question now is: Who will take the lead on health care reform? In a press conference currently underway, press secretary Robert Gibbs said the effort to reform health care “is far bigger than any one individual” and momentum will continue. Read updates from the press briefing here.