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A Healthy Dose of Daschle

With Tom Daschle's health-czar dreams dashed, former associates of his are stepping in to influence the debate from a variety of Washington positions.
With Tom Daschle's health-czar dreams dashed, former associates of his are stepping in to influence the debate from a variety of Washington positions. (By Charles Dharapak -- Associated Press)

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By Al Kamen
Friday, April 17, 2009

Former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle's nomination to be secretary of health and human services and health-care reform czar may have blown up over his nonpayment of more than $100,000 in taxes, but his influence continues to be felt on the health policy front.

Key offices on Capitol Hill and in the Obama administration are staffing up in anticipation of this summer's debate on sweeping a health-care overhaul, and many of the new hires have Daschle connections.

Mark Childress, who was to be Daschle's chief of staff, has decided instead to direct health-care efforts from Capitol Hill, our colleague Ceci Connolly reports. He's returning to work for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). Childress is known for his intricate understanding of the Senate's workings and lawmakers' pressure points. His arrival may create tension with Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who has had his ups and downs with Daschle.

Laura Petrou, a former Daschle deputy chief of staff, is expected to replace Childress in the job of HHS chief of staff.

At the White House office, meanwhile, Nancy-Ann DeParle is reportedly bringing in Michael Hash to coordinate HHS-White House reform efforts. He worked with DeParle at the agency overseeing Medicare and Medicaid and also worked for Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who is one of three leaders in the House drafting the health legislation.

WE'RE A COUNTRY, EH?

Speaking of Canada, they've launched yet another effort to make sure that Americans appreciate them. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has decided to be the country's salesman in chief and has hired the new odd couple of the PR world -- Ari Fleischer and Mike McCurry -- to book him some face time on American television and garner positive newspaper coverage.

The former Bush and Clinton press secretaries have already been on the job, Canwest News Service reports. Fleischer has helped Harper with print interviews and appearances on the Sunday talk shows before the recent economic and NATO summits in Europe, while McCurry is helping him get the word out of Canada's great friendship with this country before the Summit of the Americas this weekend. The Canadians are chronically worried that the U.S. media don't pay any attention to them -- or focus on such things as Ottawa's ties to Cuba or its refusal to join the invasion of Iraq.

WE'RE NOT, Y'ALL

Breaking news! In the Loop Exclusive! Texas has once again become an independent country! The State Department, listing the countries Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has visited and the frequent-flier miles she's piled up (more than 50,000 so far), notes that she's taken trips to Europe, the Netherlands, Mexico, the Middle East, Asia and Texas.

The site provides a breakdown of "trips by country" and includes Texas along with France, Germany, Japan, China and so on. Clinton's trip to Texas on March 27 did not involve international diplomacy -- there was a speech at a Dallas women's forum and a stop in Houston to pick up an award.

MANNING THE EMBASSIES

Also on the foreign policy front, Team Obama is still hard at work bundling a group of ambassadors to key overseas posts. We've been hearing that Chicago lawyer David Jacobson, who served as deputy national finance chairman for the Obama campaign, is a leading contender to be ambassador to Canada. Jacobson's left his Chicago firm and is in town, but e-mail and cellphone messages got no response.

Jacobson would join a healthy group of fundraising heavyweights and donors penciled in for top embassy jobs. But policy veterans are also in the mix for good postings. For example, Tom Shannon, assistant secretary of state for Latin America, is being eyed for an ambassadorship in the region. We had heard he was on tap for Brasilia -- he worked at the embassy in the early 1990s -- but it appears that job may be going to a political person. In that event, Shannon might move south to Buenos Aires -- and that 43,000-square-foot mansion.

Meanwhile, former Indiana congressman Tim Roemer, who had been talked about for CIA director, is the pick for India, according to the Cable, Foreign Policy magazine's blog. Roemer, a six-term Democrat who left the House in 2003, was an early Obama backer, was on the 9/11 Commission and now runs a think tank in town.

BROTHERLY GOV

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) will attend next week's confirmation hearing for his younger brother Cameron, who's been nominated to be general counsel at the Commerce Department, but he will recuse himself when it comes time for the committee to vote, an aide tells our colleague Ed O'Keefe. (No word yet on whether Kerry will vote on the nomination if it comes to the floor.) Apparently there's no Senate rule on voting on nominations of family members to government jobs.

YOU COULD BE A WINNER

Update on last Friday's column announcing the great lottery -- tickets $5 -- that the Hillary Clinton for President campaign has set up to help retire her campaign debt. The prizes are: a day with Bill Clinton in New York, a trip to the "American Idol" finale in Los Angeles, or a tour of Washington with political operatives and commentators James Carville and Paul Begala.

Federal Election Commission filings show she has more than halved her $6 million debt at the end of last year and it's down to only $2.3 million, apparently all owed to her polling gurus at Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates.

With Alice Crites


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