Daschle Works to Save Nomination

Posted February 2, 2009 at 9:02am

Hoping to quell the fire that sparked last week over revelations that he had to repay $128,000 in back taxes, Secretary of Health and Human Services appointee Tom Daschle penned a letter to top Members of the Finance Committee apologizing for the financial misstep.

“I am deeply embarrassed and disappointed by the errors that required me to amend my tax returns,” the former Democratic Senate Majority Leader said in a letter to Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

Daschle’s two-page letter outlines the “clerical errors” that led to his having to repay a large sum of money in back taxes. Daschle notes that he amended his taxes after the presidential transition team discovered the matter.

Daschle’s letter, dated Feb. 1, comes just hours before the former Democratic Senator is set to meet behind closed doors with Finance Committee members to discuss the back taxes. Baucus called the session late last week.

Before the revelations, Daschle appeared to be heading for a smooth ride toward confirmation as HHS secretary. Despite the latest dustup over his taxes, Senators still seem poised to back their former colleague’s nomination — with several issuing statements of support over the weekend.

Of top concern to Finance Committee members, who have jurisdiction over the nomination, is the unreported use of a private car and driver that Daschle enjoyed in the years after he left the Senate in 2005. Daschle, who lost re-election in 2004 to Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), took a job with lobby shop Alston & Bird after his defeat.

Daschle sailed through an initial confirmation hearing before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee nearly one month ago and has been waiting to testify before the Finance Committee, which ultimately votes on whether to send his nomination to the full Senate.

Because committee rules demand that Members receive at least seven days notice for a confirmation hearing, the earliest Daschle could appear before the Finance panel is next week.