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Take Two Bailouts and Call Me in the Morning

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By Al Kamen
Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Senate staffers working on confirmations are looking hard into the backgrounds of President-elect Barack Obama's nominees, poring over their past writings and speeches searching for controversial statements and positions.

Folks on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee might want to take a close look at former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle's new book, "Critical: What We Can Do About the Health Care Crisis."

Daschle -- nominated to be secretary of health and human services, but with an office in the White House that makes him the nation's health czar -- has written an analysis of what he sees as a broken health-care system. His solution relies heavily on the creation of a Federal Health Board, patterned on the Federal Reserve Board.

The board would oversee the system but would also have some of the "regulatory functions" of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"Like the SEC, it would ensure that the public has accurate information on providers and health plans," Daschle writes. "Broadly speaking, the board would oversee the health-care industry in the same way that the SEC oversees securities exchanges, brokers and dealers. It would protect against fraud," maybe even regulating the marketing of drugs, he continues.

Recent events might point to some flaws in Daschle's proposal, although he probably wasn't thinking of moving SEC chief Christopher Cox over to run the health board.

Maybe someone like William O. Douglas? He was, after all, a predecessor of Cox's.

He Doesn't Just Play One on TV

Speaking of health matters, there's been some chatter that CNN medical guru Sanjay Gupta is a serious contender to be the nation's next surgeon general. It doesn't look as though it's actually going to happen, but hey, he's a neurosurgeon, knows lots of stuff, was a Clinton White House fellow -- working for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Besides, the first pick, Hugh Laurie, also known as Dr. Gregory House, turned the job down.

The New Pentagon Deputy?

Credible buzz is that William J. Lynn, a top Pentagon official in the Clinton administration and more recently senior vice president of government operations and strategy at Raytheon, is the pick to be deputy secretary of defense.

Lynn was undersecretary of defense (comptroller) for four years, and before that he was director of program analysis and evaluation in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where he oversaw strategic planning.

Before his Pentagon jobs, Lynn was Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's liaison to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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