- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 1, 2009


Senate Republicans on Sunday piled on Health and Human Services-designate Tom Daschle for failing to pay more than $128,000 in taxes, though stopped short of saying they would vote against the South Dakota Democrat’s confirmation.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said Mr. Daschle’s tax woes, as well as those of new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, “does raise some questions about the [Obama administration’s] vetting process.”

“It is quite a surprise, said Mr. McConnell on CBS’ Face the Nation. “This is now the second time that we’ve had a similar incident.”

The minority leader added that he would wait until after a Monday meeting of the Senate Finance Committee, which has final say on submitting Mr. Daschle’s confirmation to the Senate for a full vote, before deciding whether or not he would support his confirmation.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, said he was “troubled” about the tax problems surrounding Obama cabinet nominees.

“President Obama wanted to have a very ethical administration starting out and so on, but I think he’s seeing how hard it is to avoid these kind of problems,” Mr. Kyl said on Fox News Sunday.

Mr. Kyl, a Senate Finance Committee member, said it’s too early to tell the confirmation fate of Mr. Daschle, a former Senate Majority Leader.

“We’ll have to question former senator Daschle and understand his explanation, and then have a conversation about it and see where it goes,” he said.

Sen. John Ensign, Nevada Republican, said Mr. Obama has failed so far on his promise to bring change and end the “inbreeding culture” of Washington.

“If we want the American people to trust us in Washington, D.C., we have to do things in a different way,” he said. “I think that the president is sincere in his desire to do things in a different way, and unfortunately [with] some of his nominees … there is a problem here.”

Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, a staunch conservative who rarely holds back criticism of the majority party, called Mr. Daschle’s tax woes “disheartening.”

“I can see now why liberals don’t mind if the tax rate goes up, because they’re not going to pay it anyway,” he said on ABC’s This Week.

But like his GOP colleagues, Mr. DeMint added that for the time being he will reserve judgment on Mr. Daschle’s confirmation.

Even Senate Democrats admitted that Mr. Daschle’s tax problems were a challenge to his confirmation, although not an insurmountable one.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, called Mr. Daschle’s tax woes an honest mistake.

“Mistakes were made, [but] the taxes are going to be paid,” she said on State of The Union. “It should not destroy the worth of this man for the American people.”

But she added that Mr. Daschle’s political experience and dedication for health care reform make him an excellent choice to health Health and Human Services Department.

“What’s important to me in this nominee is that he knows how to do it,” Mrs. Feinstein said. “He’s had the experience with (Capitol) Hill to know the difficulties of moving the [health reform] program.”

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, while appearing on Fox News Sunday, said Mr. Daschle is in the process of paying his back taxes and called him “one of the most honest people I’ve ever known or worked with in public life.”

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