Feature

Tom Daschle's tax problem

Errors on Daschle's returns upset what was to be an easy confirmation as health and human services secretary

What happenedTom Daschle, President Obama's nominee for health and human services secretary, apologized on Monday for errors on his tax returns—including failing to pay taxes on the use of a limousine and driver—that resulted in $146,000 in back payments. "I am deeply embarrassed," Daschle wrote in a letter to leaders of the Senate Finance Committee. (The Washington Post)

What the commentators saidDaschle's defense is that he made an honest mistake, said John Bresnahan and Carrie Budoff Brown in Politico, but "it's not clear how that explanation will play with Republicans." Coming on the heels of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's tax troubles, Daschle's problems constitute a "significant obstacle" on what had been a clear path to confirmation.

This will be "fascinating to watch," said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Daschle was the "scourge" of many Republican nominees when he ran the Senate; if Democrats treat him the same way, he's through. But if he's really "the stand-up guy his fellow Democrats say he is," he'll withdraw and spare his party "the embarrassment of confirming someone who thinks the tax laws apply only to other people."

There's no question Daschle's tax mistakes were "jaw-droppingly foolish," said Steve Benen in The Washington Monthly. But that shouldn't necessarily kill his confirmation. He corrected the error, and his exceptional career still makes him "probably the single most important person in government right now when it comes to a historic overhaul of the American healthcare system."

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