Tom Daschle, President Obama’s pick to lead the Department of Health of Human Services, has withdrawn his nomination amid revelations that he recently owed more than $140,000 in taxes and interest.
Daschle recently paid $128,000 in taxes and $11,964 in interest for his use of a car and driver provided by a private equity firm between 2005 and 2007, and for charitable donations filed without proper documentation (see Daschle Apologizes for Unpaid Taxes).
The former Senate majority leader met behind closed doors with the Senate Finance Committee on Monday and received support from the president. After the Finance Committee meeting, he reiterated a letter of apology he had sent earlier to the committee. “All of my life I assiduously tried to pay my taxes in full and on time,” he told reporters. “I deeply apologize. I would hope that my mistakes would be viewed in the context of 30 years of public service.”
However, Daschle came under increasing pressure Tuesday to withdraw his name from contention, with some Republican senators and newspaper editorials urging him to step aside. Critics also decried the $300,000 he earned in fees for consulting work and speeches for health-related companies, including pharmaceutical and health insurance companies that he would deal with as secretary of HHS, while the Obama administration aims to fulfill its campaign promise of universal health insurance coverage.
Daschle said in a statement that he would not have been able to operate “with the full faith of Congress and the American people” and said that he would “not be a distraction” to Obama’s agenda. Daschle was an early prominent supporter of Obama during his election campaign, and many members of his old staff now work in influential jobs in the administration.
Nevertheless, Obama accepted Daschle’s withdrawal. “Tom made a mistake, which he has openly acknowledged,” he said. “He has not excused it, nor do I. But that mistake and this decision cannot diminish the many contributions Tom has made to this country.”
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