Obama signals push to overhaul the health care system with Daschle and other picks

November 19, 2008

CHICAGO (ChattahBox) – U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has selected Tom Daschle, a highly regarded former senator, to be his health secretary on Wednesday. Daschle served almost two decades in the Senate and was majority leader from 2001-2003 while Democrats controlled the chamber. He has served as a mentor to the president-elect, having encouraged him early on to run for the White House and advised him during the campaign.

Two Democratic officials said the South Dakota native had accepted the job. The selection of Daschle, the former Senate Democratic leader and part of Obama’s inner circle, signaled an intention by the Democratic president-elect to make an aggressive push to overhaul the health care system. The agency he will lead oversees programs such as Medicare, the federal health insurance plan for people over the age of 65, which is expected to see costs balloon as the U.S. population ages. The department is likely to spearhead Obama’s charge to expand healthcare coverage to 47 million uninsured Americans, a key promise of his presidential campaign.

Another member of Obama’s close-knit inner-circle, David Axelrod, was named senior White House adviser, according to an announcement from the president-elect’s transition team. Axelrod, who was Obama’s strategist during the campaign and has been a political consultant for a long list of prominent Democratic politicians, was seen as a crucial player behind Obama’s comfortable win over Republican John McCain in the November 4 presidential race. Obama is likely to rely heavily on Axelrod for advice in pushing an agenda of healthcare reform, middle-class tax breaks and other domestic priorities, as he prepares to inherit a deepening financial crisis and a ballooning budget deficit.

Greg Craig, a former special counsel to Clinton who defended him during his impeachment troubles, will become White House counsel when Obama takes office on January 20.

Another Democrat passionate about health care reform, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, was weighing the option of becoming secretary of state or staying in the Senate, where she could help advance domestic policies. Meanwhile former President Bill Clinton took steps to help secure his wife the nation’s top diplomatic job should she take it. Bill Clinton, has offered to allow ethics reviews of future business and charitable activities should she decide to take the foreign policy post, Democrats familiar with the issue said. The former president is working to address questions about whether his philanthropic and business work would create the appearance of a conflict of interest in the event his wife got the job.


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