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CZAR THOMAS….Steve Benen passes along the news that Tom Daschle is Obama’s pick both for Secretary of Health and Human Services — a cabinet position — and White House health “czar” — a more traditionally West Wing-ish kind of thing. Steve is pleased:

The Daschle announcement reinforces the notion that an Obama administration is going to take the push for healthcare reform very seriously. A senior Democratic official told Mike Allen, “Of all the proposals that Obama wants to enact, health care requires the most input and tough negotiations and shepherding. No one knows the House and Senate like Tom Daschle.”

Indeed, the Daschle news makes me even more encouraged about the prospect of a healthcare package actually passing. Emanuel is insisting that an incremental approach won’t do; Baucus and Kennedy are laying the groundwork on the Hill; and Daschle has been preparing for this fight for quite a while.

I’m not really a fan of the whole “czar” thing, but if we’re gong to have a healthcare czar it makes sense to give the position to the HHS secretary. What’s more, if Hillary Clinton decides to stay in the Senate, this would set up a pretty interesting contrast with 1993: Hillary would be shepherding healthcare reform from the legislative side this time and Daschle would be doing it from the executive branch. It’s so crazy it might work!

Anyway: I agree with Steve. This is good news. Daschle is plainly dedicated to healthcare reform, he understands the legislative realities as well as anyone, and Obama is sending a pretty clear message that he plans to push full steam ahead on this. Keep your fingers crossed.

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