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DeMint Says Daschle Should Withdraw as HHS Nominee

Updated: 1:09 p.m.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is calling on President Barack Obama to withdraw the nomination of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) for Health and Human Services secretary in the wake of revelations that Daschle failed to properly pay his taxes.

DeMint told Fox News on Tuesday morning that he believes Daschle’s tax problems raise questions about his integrity. The conservative GOP Senator said that given the controversy surrounding the tax payments of several other Obama nominees, most notably Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Daschle’s name should be pulled.

“It’s very unfortunate with Tom Daschle that this has occurred, but the president needs to lead. He needs to step in here and he needs to withdraw this nomination,” DeMint told Fox.

DeMint is the first Senate Republican to call on Daschle to step aside, but he may not be the last.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, suggested Daschle would be wise to “remove the destraction” that his troubled nomination has caused. Cornyn said he doesn’t plan to support Daschle’s installment at HHS.

“Man, it just keeps getting worse,” Cornyn said. “Sen. Daschle might do President Obama a favor and withdraw his nomination.”

Meanwhile, Obama’s nominee to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, Nancy Killefer, has decided to pull her name from contention as a result of her own tax problems.

Meantime, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who ousted Daschle from office in a bitter 2004 campaign, said he was reserving judgment, for now.

“The Finance Committee met with him yesterday. There’s a hearing next week, and I’m going to wait before making any decisions,” Thune said.

Thune predicted that Daschle would be reaching out to Republican Senators this week to try to smooth over any concerns about his nomination. The GOP Conference vice chairman said that while the two South Dakotans have not yet scheduled a meeting, “I’m looking forward to meeting with him and having some questions answered.”

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