Daschle Lands HHS, Plus a White House Office

Posted December 11, 2008 at 11:09am

President-Elect Barack Obama on Thursday handed full authority over his health care agenda to former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), not only naming him secretary of Health and Human Services but giving him an office in the White House as director of a new office of health care reform.

“He will be responsible not just for implementing our health care plan, he will also be the lead architect of that plan,” Obama said Thursday at a news conference in Chicago.

Obama suggested that, though he will have to focus on the economy immediately on taking office, a health care overhaul will be up at the plate early in his administration.

“This has to be intimately woven into our overall economic recovery plan,” Obama said. “It’s not something we can sort of put off because we’re in an emergency — this is part of the emergency.”

He promised an bipartisan, open process — some of it shown live on C-SPAN — that brings to the table the gamut of stakeholders, including doctors, patient advocates, businesses and labor.

By giving Daschle an office in the White House, Obama ensures that Daschle will have close access to the president and will be able to move to prevent any potential efforts by other Obama aides to undermine Daschle’s work. Obama also said Jeanne Lambrew, who assisted Daschle on a book about health care reform, will be Daschle’s deputy in the White House. Lambrew served in a similar position during the Clinton administration.