Daschle Advising Obama, Health Industry On Reform
The Washington Post: "Former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle's visit to the Oval Office on Friday, at the invitation of President Obama, was more than just a meeting between two loyal friends and political allies. It also served as a reminder of what might have been."
"As Obama's health-care agenda teeters in Congress, the White House listed the private meeting on the president's public schedule, sending a signal that Obama is still consulting Daschle on his top domestic policy priority. An assiduous student of health policy and an adept creature of the Senate, Daschle was Obama's first pick to oversee his reforms, but a firestorm over Daschle's failure to pay about $146,000 in taxes on time prompted the South Dakota Democrat in February to withdraw his nomination to be secretary of health and human services.
"Since returning to the private sector, Daschle has served a dual role on health care. He has informally advised high-ranking administration officials, including senior aide Pete Rouse and health-care reform czar Nancy-Ann DeParle, who took over half of the job Obama created for Daschle. On television shows, in speeches and at symposiums, he has been a vocal advocate for a universal coverage plan that includes the public insurance option. But Daschle is also working closely with lobbyists...." (Rucker and Kornblut, 8/22).
The New York Times: "He still speaks frequently to the president ... And he remains a highly paid policy adviser to hospital, drug, pharmaceutical and other health care industry clients of Alston & Bird, the law and lobbying firm. Now the White House and Senate Democratic leaders appear to be moving toward a blueprint for overhauling the health system, centered on nonprofit insurance cooperatives, that Mr. Daschle began promoting two months ago as a politically feasible alternative to a more muscular government-run insurance plan. It is an idea that happens to dovetail with the interests of many Alston & Bird clients, like the insurance giant UnitedHealth and the Tennessee Hospital Association. And it is drawing angry cries of accommodation from more liberal House Democrats bent on including a public insurance plan" (Kirkpatrick, 8/23).
Politico: "Following a morning meeting with President Barack Obama, former Sen. Tom Daschle told POLITICO that passing a health care bill through the filibuster-proof budget process could be the Democrats' key to success.
'That's not the best way, but that could be the only way,' said the Senate's former top Democrat who has an expertise in the arcane rules of the upper chamber. In a sign that the tactic is under consideration in the White House, Daschle said 'that came up' in the meeting with Obama but wouldn't say how the president viewed it" (Thrush, 8/21).