Another notable name is joining Barack Obama's Cabinet — former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle will be Health and Human Services secretary pending Senate confirmation, FOX News learned Wednesday.
Daschle accepted the offer, according to two Democratic sources close to Daschle and with intimate knowledge of the decision. Daschle had been a longtime adviser on Obama's campaign and served as a frequent surrogate on the campaign trail and in media interviews.
The appointment has not been announced, but these officials said the job is Daschle's, barring an unforeseen problem as Obama's team reviews the background of the South Dakota Democrat.
One area of review will include the lobbying connections of his wife, Linda Hall Daschle, who has lobbied mostly on behalf of airline-related companies over the years. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
As Health and Human Services chief, Daschle will be responsible for helping set health care policy. He supports a government-funded insurance program for the nation's uninsured.
Daschle has also been the head of the health care working group in the Obama transition team. Democratic officials shied away from a term some are throwing around — "health care czar" — but say Daschle "is likely to play a leading role in the passage of health care reform and the strategy to implement it."
Other sources lay out substantial work being done by the incoming administration to enable health care reform, all of which indicates Obama does intend to move on this issue in spite of the monumental difficulties, including financial obstacles.
The former South Dakota senator led the Senate Democrats from 1994 until he lost his re-election bid in 2004. He was minority leader for most of that time, serving as majority leader from May 2001 until January 2003, when Democrats returned to the minority after losing seats in the November 2002 midterm elections.
Organizations seeking to expand health coverage were quick to praise the selection.
"Sen. Daschle has a deep commitment to securing high-quality, affordable health care for everyone in our nation," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. "His new leadership position confirms that the incoming Obama administration has made health care reform a top and early priority for action in 2009."
After losing re-election to the Senate in 2004, Daschle became a public policy adviser and member of the legislative and public policy group at the law and lobbying firm Alston & Bird. Daschle isn't registered as a lobbyist. He advises clients on issues including health care, financial services and taxes and trade, according to the firm's Web site.
Health care interests, including CVS Caremark, the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, Abbott Laboratories and HealthSouth, are among the firm's lobbying clients.
His wife was acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration in the Clinton administration. She is one of Washington's top lobbyists. Her lobbying clients over the past year included American Airlines, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, Senate lobbying records show.
Daschle is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank run by top Obama transition adviser and former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta. According to his biography for the think tank, Daschle serves on the advisory boards of Intermedia Partners and the BP America Inc. external advisory council, and on the boards of CB Richard Ellis, Mascoma Corp., Prime BioSolutions, The Freedom Forum, the Mayo Clinic, the Center for American Progress, the LBJ Foundation, and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Daschle's strong Capitol Hill ties and knowledge of how HHS works mean "it is a perfect appointment," said former Republican Congressman John Porter, who chairs the medical research advocacy group Research!America. "He'll do an outstanding job."
Besides health reform, the next HHS secretary will deal with the growing budgetary woes of some of the nation's critical health agencies.
One example: Years of funding that didn't keep up with inflation means the National Institutes of Health has lost 14 percent of its buying power, said Dr. Harold Varmus, NIH's former director and a science adviser to Obama's campaign. That has left promising disease research without money to move forward.
Obama also announced several transition working group leaders, including Daschle, who will oversee the health policy working group. They include former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Carol Browner on energy and environment and former Clinton White House adviser Jim Steinberg and Obama campaign senior foreign policy adviser Susan Rice on national security
FOX News' Jim Angle and Bret Baier contributed to this report.