Advocates decry HHS vacancy

Feb. 16, 2009 at 11:35 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Healthcare activists say there is a hole in President Barack Obama's leadership team without a nominee for Health and Human Services secretary.

Obama had tapped former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle for the post, but the South Dakota Democrat withdrew his nomination following disclosure that he had failed for months to pay more than $100,000 in taxes. Daschle had also been tapped to lead the White House Office on Health Reform.

"The health agenda isn't being addressed, and the health agenda was certainly a big part of the campaign and a big part of the transition," Kevin Robert Frost, chief executive of the Foundation for AIDS Research, told The Washington Post.

Citing an administration source, the newspaper reported Monday that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has said the administration is "vetting" possible candidates to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.

"The department is really starting behind," said Tommy Thompson, who was President George W. Bush's HHS secretary. "There's a learning curve which is difficult because of the complexities and overall magnitude of the department."

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