Correction to This Article
The following statement that ran on A2 in Sunday's paper was cited incorrectly: "If all you knew about Tom Daschle was that he used to be a senator and he made a mistake and had to pay over $100,000 in back taxes, you would have a right to be skeptical, even cynical," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.). "But if you know Tom Daschle, you know better." The remarks by Sen. Durbin were delivered on Fox News Sundays with Chris Wallace and the article should have specified this.

Daschle Faces Questions From Senators on Tax Glitch

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Tom Daschle, President Obama's nominee for Health Secretary will meet with the Senate Finance Committee to explain how he racked up a massive back tax bill. Kimberly Dozier reports. Video by CBSNEWS.com

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By Ceci Connolly and Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, February 2, 2009

After a quarter-century in Congress, Thomas A. Daschle will return to Capitol Hill today in an unfamiliar role, summoned by former colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee to defend his reputation and his nomination to be secretary of health and human services amid revelations that he did not pay more than $100,000 in back taxes.

Well known and generally well liked in Washington, Daschle was expected to be one of President Obama's first Cabinet secretaries to be confirmed. His preliminary hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was so upbeat that Republicans praised his selection.

Instead, a vote on his confirmation has been stalled, and with it one of Obama's signature domestic policy issues -- health-care reform.

Daschle's prospects became complicated during the first week of the year, when he detailed for the White House and the Finance Committee a series of tax filing errors made over the past three years. Most significantly, he did not pay taxes on a luxury car and driver provided by his friend and employer, Democratic businessman Leo J. Hindery Jr.

Daschle, a former Senate majority leader from South Dakota, will head to the Capitol today "ready and willing to answer any questions," said Jenny Backus, his spokeswoman. He will also inform lawmakers that in addition to the $140,000 in back taxes and interest he paid on Jan. 2, he intends to send the U.S. Treasury an additional $6,000 to cover Medicare taxes on the driver.

Questions about the Medicare tax liability arose only Friday, Backus said, and Daschle agreed to pay the money.

Daschle, who has been out of town visiting an ailing brother, has been unavailable for interviews. He has not responded to requests to release his tax returns.

Many Democrats rose to his defense yesterday.

"If all you knew about Tom Daschle was that he used to be a senator and he made a mistake and had to pay over $100,000 in back taxes, you would have a right to be skeptical, even cynical," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. "But if you know Tom Daschle, you know better."

One longtime friend blamed Hindery's company, InterMedia Advisors, for the tax oversight. Daschle did report the $1 million annual consulting fee he received from the private equity firm. He asked his accountant last summer to look into whether the Internal Revenue Service considers the free car and driver to be compensation, Washington lawyer Frederick Graefe said.

"If there was no 1099 [form] from his employer for the car and driver, how was he to know it was taxable?" Graefe said. "His integrity is beyond reproach."

Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), one of two Republicans who opposed the confirmation of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, was the only lawmaker to suggest publicly yesterday that Daschle's nomination may be in jeopardy.


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