NASHVILLE — Gov. Phil Bredesen today said the chance that President Obama will nominate him for U.S. Health and Human Services secretary are low as liberal groups continue to pound away at his cuts to TennCare.
“I’m not taking my name out of consideration,” Gov. Bredesen told reporters this afternoon. “I’m proud to be considered. But I do think it’s a relatively low probability thing.”
He said the attacks have “been startling to me. You have a spotlight shined on you and then come along and get mugged and then the spotlight goes away.”
Gov. Bredesen’s name has surfaced in Washington news reports as a top candidate for Health and Human Services. The position came open after former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle withdrew his name following a blitz of controversy over unpaid taxes and his leap into lucrative private consulting work once he departed the Senate.
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, according to news accounts, is the front runner for the position. The Obama White House did not return telephone calls on the topic.
Gov. Bredesen has come under fierce attack from liberal health care activists as well as the liberal political group, MoveOn.org, for his cuts to TennCare, the state’s version of Medicaid. About 320,000 enrollees have been cut from the program since 2005.
On Tuesday, MoveOn.org began circulating an e-mail petition criticizing Gov. Bredesen and urging the president to nominate a “progressive champion.” On Wednesday, MoveOn.org’s executive director, Justin Ruben, issued another statement blasting Gov. Bredesen again.
“Governor Bredesen's brief — and apparently unsuccessful — run for Health and Human Services Secretary shows why he is wrong for a cabinet post and out of touch with the needs of the people of Tennessee and the nation,” Mr. Ruben said. “His comments to The Wall Street Journal on Monday made it clear that he just doesn't get how fed up Americans are with our health care policy being written by insurance and drug companies.”
Gov. Bredesen told the Journal that “advocacy groups don't matter nearly as much as the pharmaceutical groups, the hospitals, the doctors’ groups. There's a lot of very powerful interest groups that will play in this thing.”
Mr. Ruben said that “what is clear to most Americans, but apparently not Governor Bredesen, is that if we continue to allow the insurance and drug lobbyists to write health care legislation we will continue to get a system that puts profits before people and leaves 45 million Americans uninsured.”
Gov. Bredesen said, “I guess the plus of somebody like me is you’ve sort of been there and had some scars and been involved in these things. The minus is certainly you’ve been there and you got some scars and you certainly make some enemies in the process.”
He said that while he has “respect” for what MoveOn.org and Families USA, another of his national critics, “there are certainly some things I disagree with them on. They’re entitled to their opinion.”
For complete details, see tomorrow’s Times Free Press.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...