Senate Democrats on Saturday sought to downplay the impact of reports that former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) recently owed more than $100,000 in back taxes.Responding to a report in the Washington Post that Daschle had not paid taxes primarily for several years' worth of luxury car service and consulting work, several top Democrats reaffirmed their support for their former leader's nomination to become secretary of Health and Human Services.Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said Daschle's legislative experience would be invaluable during the health care reform debate and that Daschle had already addressed the tax issues."As a former member of both the House and the Senate, his knowledge of the legislative process is unmatched. He has built relationships with and is well respected by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle -- necessary components to getting good legislation passed in a timely manner," Kerry said in a statement."Months ago, Tom personally and proactively addressed the taxes issue and took all necessary steps to correct his innocent error. I've known Tom Daschle for years and he is a man of great character and integrity who will do a superb job in helping us fix our healthcare system. I look forward to his speedy confirmation," Kerry added.Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) also issued public declarations of support.A senior GOP aide said it is unlikely the issue will trip up Daschle's nomination, although the aide took a shot at the Democrats."Considering this majority confirmed a Treasury secretary who blew off his taxes, Tom Daschle would probably have to botch an open heart surgery before the Democrats would consider holding him up at HHS," the aide said.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.