NASE News

No Surprises During Daschle’s Senate Health Committee Confirmation Hearing

Tom Daschle, President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee to run the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), faced no hostile questions from Republicans on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee during the committee’s recent hearing on his nomination.

Daschle is no stranger to Capitol Hill, having served four terms in the House and three in the Senate before losing his seat to Republican John Thune in 2004. It was apparent that Daschle had already begun relationship building, as several Republicans on the panel mentioned that they had spoken privately with Daschle about health policy in recent days. Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said upfront that he would support Daschle’s confirmation, indicating that the eventual Senate vote will be in Daschle’s favor.

President-elect Obama has repeatedly said that he wants Republicans to be more involved in drafting major legislation and to operate in a more bipartisan fashion than has been the norm in recent years. During the hearing, Daschle promised Senate Republicans that any health care legislation pursued by the new administration would follow “the regular order,” contrary to a suggestion in his 2008 book on health policy “Critical” that including a health care overhaul in the annual budget resolution would speed its passage through the Senate.

President-elect Obama has also named Daschle to lead a new White House Office of Health Reform, making him the president-elect’s authority on health policy. “If confirmed, I will use these dual roles to marshal the talent and energy necessary to at last succeed in making health care affordable and accessible for all Americans,” Daschle said.

The committee did not vote on the nomination. The Senate Finance Committee also has jurisdiction over Daschle’s nomination and will hold its own confirmation hearing and vote to advance it to the Senate. The Finance Committee has not yet set a date for its confirmation hearing.