Fri, Nov 21, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Obama taps Daschle to lead health

TOP POST A report said former president Bill Clinton has offered to submit his business dealings to an ethics review if Hillary becomes the secretary of state

AFP , WASHINGTON

US president-elect Barack Obama picked former Senate leader Tom Daschle to end the US healthcare crisis and stocked his White House staff with loyal campaign aides, as new contenders emerged yesterday for key Cabinet posts.

Obama, who takes office in January, spent Wednesday in his Chicago transition office, but a Democratic official said he had asked Daschle to be health and human services secretary.

Obama was also reported to have candidates in mind to head the key departments of homeland security and commerce.

US media reported he was likely to name Democratic Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, 50, to run the Department of Homeland Security.

The popular two-term governor was an early Obama supporter and has been frequently mentioned as a possible Cabinet member. The Washington Post yesterday cited Democratic sources as saying Napolitano was Obama's choice for the homeland post.

Napolitano on Wednesday downplayed the prospects of joining the administration, saying she was “not campaigning nor seeking a job,” CBS News reported on its Web site.

Chicago billionaire businesswoman Penny Pritzker, 49, is the leading candidate to be commerce secretary, CNN reported, citing multiple sources.

Pritzker, an heir of the Chicago family that founded the Hyatt chain of hotels, raised record amounts of money as Obama's national finance chair for his campaign.

Both women would accept the positions if offered, sources told CNN.

Daschle, 60, will be tasked with shepherding healthcare reform legislation through Congress in line with Obama's campaign vow to revamp the US medical system and help Americans who have no health insurance.

The last major healthcare reform attempt by a Democratic president, piloted by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton during her husband Bill Clinton's administration, ended in a notorious failure.

More than a decade on, there was no indication on Wednesday whether the senator would accept Obama's overtures concerning the key post of secretary of state.

The Wall Street Journal reported former president Clinton had removed a barrier to the appointment by offering to submit his future charitable and business dealings to an ethics review if his wife became the top US diplomat.

Some analysts have questioned whether Bill Clinton's myriad business deals, donor lists and contacts with foreign governments would raise conflicts of interest if his wife became the face of US foreign policy.

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