From the start, Obama made exceptions to his no-lobbyist rule. And now, embarrassing details about Cabinet-nominee Tom Daschle’s tax problems and big paychecks from special interest groups are raising new questions about the reach and sweep of the new president’s promised reforms.
Tom Daschle withdrew Tuesday as President Barack Obama’s nominee to be health and human services secretary, dealing potential blows to both speedy health care reform and Obama’s hopes for a smooth start in the White House.
In a written statement accepting “with sadness and regret” Daschle’s surprise request to be removed from consideration. A day earlier, Obama had said he “absolutely” stood by Daschle in the face of problems over back taxes and potential conflicts of interest.
Daschle, the former Senate Democratic leader and a strong backer of Obama’s presidential bid, said he would have been unable to operate “with the full faith of Congress and the American people.”
“I am not that leader, and will not be a distraction” to Obama’s agenda, he said.
Asked repeatedly whether the White House sought Daschle’s withdrawal, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Daschle himself decided to remove his name from nomination. Daschle “did not get a signal” from the White House to step aside, Gibbs said.
Obama had given Daschle two jobs â€” to be White House health czar on top of the post leading the Health and Human Services Department â€” and Daschle is relinquishing the czar post too. The developments called into question whether Obama will be able to move as quickly as he has promised on sweeping health care reform â€” one of the pillars of his first 100 days agenda.