Tom Daschle is the Senate Majority Leader and senior Democratic senator from South Dakota. He is serving his third term in the Senate. He was first elected in 1986.
In addition to the Leader's post, Daschle also serves as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. In past Congresses, he has served on the Veterans, Indian Affairs, Finance and Ethics Committees. In 1994, Daschle was chosen by his colleagues to succeed the retiring Senator George Mitchell as Democratic leader. In the history of the Senate, only Lyndon Johnson had served fewer years before being elected to lead his party.
During the current Congress, Daschle has pressed Congress to use the budget surpluses to pay down the national debt, shore up Social Security and Medicare for future generations, cut taxes for working families, and invest in health care, education, crime fighting and agriculture. He is a strong advocate of the "Patients' Bill of Rights," and voted for the education reform bill that passed the Senate this week.
Throughout his career, Daschle has focused on helping working families in South Dakota and across the country. He has pressed to give family farmers and ranchers a fair chance to compete, and worked to ensure that rural communities have access to quality education and health care. He has fought to get veterans the benefits they deserve and enacting legislation to help those affected by exposure to Agent Orange. He has also had legislation enacted to improve the lives of Native Americans. In the telecommunications age, Daschle has led efforts to ensure that rural America has access to the latest technology. He has also championed the successful Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) program to fight crime. At the same time, he has demanded fiscal discipline from Congress and the White House.
Daschle annually conducts an "unscheduled driving" tour, in which he travels across his home state of South Dakota in his car with no staff and no schedule. He stops at Elks clubs, cattle auctions, health clinics, schools, cafes, police stations or anywhere else that people gather to hear what's on their minds. He makes a point of traveling to each of the state's 66 counties every year.
In 1986, Daschle won his first Senate race in a hard fought contest with incumbent James Abdnor. In his first year in the Senate, he was appointed to the Finance Committee. In 1988, then-Senate Democratic Leader George Mitchell named Daschle the first-ever co-chair of the Democratic Policy Committee, making him the first South Dakotan ever to hold a Senate leadership position. To enhance his state's economy, Daschle also became the first U.S. Senator to hire a full-time economic development director, a staff position he maintains today. He was also one of the first members of Congress to establish a toll-free telephone line that connects South Dakotans to his Washington, DC office.
In 1978, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served four terms and was quickly made part of the Democratic leadership.
Before running for office, he spent five years as an aide to South Dakota Senator James Abourezk and three years as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command.
Daschle was born in December 1947, in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where he grew up in a working family as the eldest of four brothers. He became the first person in his family to graduate from college when he earned a political science degree from South Dakota State University in 1969.
Senator Daschle is married to Linda Hall Daschle and is the father of three children: Kelly, Nathan and Lindsay.