NPR has confirmed the report that Tom Daschle has accepted an offer to serve as Barack Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Sevices. In that post, Daschle will be at the center of President-elect Obama's promised effort to provide health coverage to all Americans.
Daschle served three terms as a Senator from South Dakota after four terms as that state's lone Congressman. He was the Senate Minority Leader from 1995-2005, except for the period between June 2001 and January 2003 — during that chunk of the 107th Congress, the Senate majority changed hands when Vermont's Jim Jeffords left the GOP to become an Independent and caucus with the Democrats. (Republican victories in the 2002 midterms put the Senate majority back in GOP hands.) Daschle lost his re-election bid to John Thune in 2004.
Since losing his Senate seat, Daschle has taken a particular interest in the nation's troubled health care system. His book, Critical: What We Can Do About The Health Care Crisis, came out in February. Daschle was one of Barack Obama's earliest supporters in his presidential bid, and was a key campaign adviser on health care issues, despite the rhetorical difference between the men on how to achieve "universal" coverage. Daschle's book argues for mandated coverage, which Obama argued against during his primary sparring matches with mandate-supporter Hillary Clinton.
Before the appointment is formally announced, transition officials will have to complete their vetting of Daschle. One area of particular interest will be his wife's career; Linda Hall Daschle is a prominent lobbyist for the aviation industry.