Tom Daschle dropped a political bombshell today when he withdrew from the process of being appointed HHS Secretary. Senior advisor David Axelrod said the president was caught off guard by Daschle’s abrupt decision.
Daschle said that he withdrew because he didn’t want the issue of his back taxes to be a distraction, “But if 30 years of exposure to the challenges inherent in our system has taught me anything, it has taught me that this work will require a leader who can operate with the full faith of Congress and the American people, and without distraction. Right now, I am not that leader, and will not be a distraction. The focus of Congress should be on the urgent business of moving the President’s economic agenda forward, including affordable health care for every American.”
Senior advisor David Axelrod told Time’s Jay Newton-Small that he thought that Obama was surprised by Daschle’s decision. When asked if Obama was surprised Axelrod said, “I think so. There was no precursor of it.” In a statement, Obama expressed sadness and regret over Daschle’s decision, “This morning, Tom Daschle asked me to withdraw his nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services. I accept his decision with sadness and regret.”
It appeared that Daschle’s revelation that he paid back taxes might delay his confirmation, but as of yesterday, it looked as if he had the votes to be confirmed. Daschle’s decision came out of left field. Yesterday, the White House was standing behind their choice, and it seemed like everything was going to move forward. The White House denies that they pushed Daschle out, and there is no evidence to suggest that they did. I can only speculate that maybe there was another shoe to drop in this story. Sadly, politicians owing back taxes have become common. There was likely more to the story than we know right now. Either way, this is a serious setback for healthcare reform.