THE PLANK DECEMBER 10, 2008
Barack Obama will be holding a press conference in Chicago on Thursday. And it's safe bet that most of the political world will be watching to hear Obama give his first extended remarks about the Rod Blagojevich scandal.
But Obama will be making news of another sort, too: He will, according to transition sources, make official the appointment of former Senator Tom Daschle as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. And while that's not exactly news--sources had fingered Daschle as the likely nominee some time ago--Obama's broader statements about health care will be.
Pay particular attention to what Obama says about priorities: Which parts of reform will he emphasize? (Increasing access? Reducing costs? Improving quality?) How quickly does he plan to pursue reform? Health care reform will cost money in the short run; how quickly must a scheme start paying for itself? And--if somebody thinks to ask--what does Obama think about the ongoing efforts in Congress, particularly the Senate, where Max Baucus and Ted Kennedy have been working on a bill for months?
Answers to some of these questions may come from Daschle himself, should he get the chance to make extended remarks of his own. Health care reform is Daschle's passion; he just published a book on the subject. And, even before the election, it was widely understood that any Obama health care reform effort would have Daschle at its helm.
Morning Update: Obama is expected to announce that Daschle will have two offices--one of them in the White House, from where he'll head the reform effort. His point person there will, apparently, be Jeanne Lambrew, a well-known and highly respected health care policy intellectual who helped Daschle write his book.