Daschle wants to be White House health ‘czar’

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : Creating a team that’s “diverse in many ways” President-elect Barack Obama has chosen former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle to overhaul the US healthcare system, media reports said.

Support TwoCircles

Daschle has not only indicated he wants the job secretary of health and human services, but also negotiated that he will also serve as the White House health “czar,” or point person, so that he will report directly to the incoming president, CNN said.

By wearing two hats, Daschle – not White House staffers – will be writing the health care plan to extend health coverage to the 47 million Americans who lack insurance that made a high priority during the campaign,it said.

Media reports said the precise timing of the announcement has not been worked out, but Daschle is likely to officially join the Obama transition team as the lead adviser on health issues in the next few weeks. An Obama transition official would not comment.

Daschle is currently billed as a “special public policy adviser” in the Washington office of the lobbying firm Alston Bird, though he is technically not a federally registered lobbyist.

But his wife Linda Daschle is a registered lobbyist at the powerful firm Baker Donelson, which does have some clients in health-related fields.

Obama Wednesday formally announced some additions of key White House staff members, including the previously expected choice of David Axelrod as Senior Advisor to the President

“I am pleased to announce these new additions to our team, and I’ll be relying on their broad and diverse experience in the months ahead as we work to strengthen our economy, reform Washington, and meet the great challenges of our time,” Obama said.

Axelrod has been a fixture by Obama’s side for years, serving as the chief strategist for Obama’s campaign and as a top adviser during his run for the Senate in 2004.

Obama also announced Greg Craig as White House Counsel, Lisa Brown as Staff Secretary and Chris Lu as Cabinet Secretary

Meanwhile, critics questioned whether Obama’s top staff picks so far represent the “change” that he promised during the campaign. More than half of the people named so far to Obama’s transition or staff posts have ties to former President Bill Clinton’s administration.

The Obama transition team said in a statement that they are dedicated to building a well-rounded administration.

“President-elect Obama is committed to putting together a competent team that is diverse in many ways, including experience. Serving in high level positions whether in government, in the private sector or in public service is seen as a positive,” spokesman Nick Shapiro said.

Among the so-called “Clintonistas” is former first lady Hillary Clinton who is widely considered the frontrunner to be the next secretary of state.

Obama’s latest selection, Eric Holder, offered the position of attorney general also has ties to Bill Clinton. Holder served in the Clinton administration as deputy attorney general.

Rahm Emanuel, the incoming White House chief of staff, is a former top aide to Bill Clinton.

Peter Orszag, the head of the Congressional Budget Office, was picked to head Obama’s Office of Management and Budget, CNN said citing a top Democratic source.

Orszag worked at the Clinton White House as special assistant to the president at the National Economic Council and served on the Council of Economic Advisers.