Behind-the-scenes players Daschle, Carper, Orszag help guide health debate

Though he has no official government position, Tom Daschle, a former Senate leader and one-time nominee for health secretary, is still attending key health-reform meetings, the Associated Press reports. "The outsized role is unusual for someone who's an adviser to lobbying firms, especially given Obama's campaign vow to change business as usual in Washington," according to the AP. This week, Daschle met with current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and the "actual HHS secretary, Kathleen Sebelius. Sebelius was Obama's second choice for the job after Daschle withdrew amid (a) tax controversy." A spokesman for Reid said it was President Obama's idea to include Daschle in the overhaul effort (Werner, 12/2).

Meanwhile, "Daschle's history as an adviser to some of the health care industry's most influential companies is raising the ire of public interest groups and GOP officials, who have questioned his increasingly prominent roll," Politico reports. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said "Mr. Daschle's presence in this meeting raises serious ethical concerns and should make clear to the American people that special interests, not their interests" are at issue in the health debate (Frates and Brown, 12/2).

Another voice of influence in health reform is Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. Carper's personal and political style, which Roll Call describes as "unassuming and somewhat obscure," not especially "charismatic or outgoing," or "partisan," has kept him out of the limelight and caused him to struggle as a "consensus maker" in the past. Now, "his style is finally paying dividends," Roll Call reports. Reid has dispatched him to forge a compromise on the divisive public option (Drucker, 12/2).

Also shaping reform is White House budget director Peter Orszag, Bloomberg reports. According to Reid, even though Orszag is a relatively new hand at politics, he's earned favor with Democratic leaders because of his ability to elucidate complex economic issues and health care topics. "He's a natural," said Reid, who has nicknamed Orszag Mr. Princeton. "In terms of the fiscal undergirding of the health plan, he was the architect," said senior Obama adviser David Axelrod (Dorning, 12/1).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article is republished with kind permission from our friends at The Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery of in-depth coverage of health policy developments, debates and discussions. The Daily Health Policy Report is published for, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Copyright 2009 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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