Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ron Wyden for HHS Secretary

Let me be the first to suggest that the President name Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) to be the next Secretary of HHS.

The withdrawal by Tom Daschle has underscored just how important it will be for the President to name someone who can bring a number of key strengths to the job. The right candidate will have:
  1. A high degree of respect from members of Congress--both Democrats and Republicans.
  2. An understanding for how the process works both in the House and the Senate and a track record of success.
  3. A reputation for bipartisanship.
  4. A detailed understanding of the health care political and policy challenge.
  5. A passion for health care reform.
  6. The ability to communicate the complexities of health care reform to the American people.
  7. Someone the President can trust to enact his agenda.
All day reporters have been asking me whom the best person was for the President to now turn to and get his health care agenda back on track.

Seems to me Ron Wyden fits the bill.

He is:
  • Respected: Senator Wyden is highly respected and well liked by his colleagues—and everyone else in the business of health care policy.
  • Understands the Congressional Process: He has served in the House and the Senate and has a significant track record of accomplishment.
  • Bipartisan: He is the principal author of the Wyden-Bennett health care reform bill—a unique bipartisan health care effort that has as many Republican Senators as Democratic Senators onside--conservatives and liberals alike.
  • Understands Health Care: His Wyden-Bennett efforts resulted in a bill the CBO has scored as revenue neutral in its first few years of implementation—a notable achievement demonstrating Senator Wyden’s understanding of the moving parts in health care.
  • Passion for Health Care Reform: I’ve heard one Senator after another remark about Senator Wyden’s passion and enthusiasm for health care reform—the Wyden-Bennett bill has gone as far as it has in great part because of his passion and personal commitment to it.
  • The Ability to Talk to the American People About Health Care: He has made Wyden-Bennett an important part of the health care discussion.
  • Someone the President Can Trust: Since the election, Senator Wyden has not tried to trump the new administration’s health care efforts by trying to keep the Wyden-Bennett bill at the top of the agenda.
Would Wyden subordinate his own bill to the President’s priorities? I have no doubt that he would. But I also have no doubt that Senator Wyden would make cost containment and long-term affordability, something the President has also been talking about lately, the issue it deserves to be.

Who has the stature, policy expertise, legislative track record, bipartisanship, and passion to get the health care reform job done?

After thinking about it all day, the name that comes to mind—Ron Wyden.
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