Barack Obama's choice as Health and Human Services Secretary and director of a new White House Office of Health Reform has 26 years of experience in Congress that's 22 years more than the president-elect. If confirmed, Tom Daschle will no doubt help Obama navigate legislative pitfalls in their efforts to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system. But Daschle also brings to the job the Midwestern manners that made him a likable personality on Capitol Hill. Since leaving the Senate in 2004, Tom Daschle has maintained close ties to Washington, as an employee of a lobbying firm, healthcare policy expert and an early adviser to the Obama campaign. (See TIME's Top 10 Political Photos of 2008)
Born into a working class family in Aberdeen, South Dakota, he is the oldest of four brothers.
He's 61 years old, married to his wife Linda since 1984. He has three children from a previous marriage and four grandchildren. Linda Daschle formerly worked for the Federal Aviation Administration and is now a powerful lobbyist for the aviation industry.
Daschle is an avid jogger, who listens to audio books while exercising, including tomes by David McCullough, according to the New York Times.
He was the first in his family to graduate from college, earning a bachelor's degree from South Dakota State University in 1969.
After college, Daschle was an intelligence officer in the Air Force. After three years, he went to work as an aide to South Dakota Senator James Abourek.
He won his first elected office at age 30, becoming a congressman from South Dakota. During the campaign, Daschle and his first wife, Laurie, reportedly visited 40,000 homes. Daschle won by just 110 votes, and only after a recount. In 1982, running for reelection, Daschle beat out Clint Roberts, a former Marlboro ad model who had also served as a congressman.
Daschle was elected to the Senate in 1986, after a tough campaign in which his opponent tried to link him to actress Jane Fonda's anti-war activism and convince cattle-country voters that Daschle advocated vegetarianism. Daschle won with 52% of the vote and, in the Senate, continued to work on issues such as agriculture subsidies, which he favored, and veterans' affairs.
In 1994, he campaigned against Senator Chris Dodd to become Senate Minority Leader, winning by just won vote. He also served as Majority Leader after Vermont's Jim Jeffords left the Republican Party in 2001 to become an independent and caucus with the Democrats, giving Daschle a one vote majority.
After a 1994 plane crash killed four doctors, their widows filed an ethics complaint against Daschle, accusing the Senator of helping the small aircraft's owner avoid proper safety regulations. He was cleared of wrongdoing.
As Senate minority leader during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Daschle handled the Democratic side of impeachment proceedings against the president.
He has written two books, Like No Other Time, about serving in the 107th Congress, and Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis, published in 2008.
On Oct. 15, 2001, an envelope containing anthrax spores was sent to Daschle's Senate office and Sen. Pat Leahy's office, among other locations. Twenty-eight people tested positive for exposure and five died.
In 2004, Daschle lost his Senate seat when he was beaten by John Thune, a Republican congressman.
In his post-Senate career, Daschle has worked on healthcare policy issues and been employed by lobbying firm Alston & Bird, which he joined after being recruited by another former senator, Robert Dole.
The filibuster is "one of the most abused parliamentary tools of the Senate."
speaking in favor of legislative reform, during his race against Chris Dodd to be Senate Majority Leader, New York Times, Nov. 25, 1994
"To extent that we can, we want very much to work with the White House. We will not be led by them; we will not view ourselves as an extension of them."
upon accepting his role as Senate Minority Leader in 1994, New York Times Dec. 3, 1994
"President Bush has said the economy is growing, that there are jobs out there. But you know, it's a long commute to China to get those jobs."
at a rally of workers protesting against outsourcing, New York Times, March 6, 2004
"We have to break the myth that this is the best health care system in the world."
speaking to the press, after President-elect announced his nomination as Health and Human Services Secretary, New York Times Dec. 11, 2008
"He's developed an unbelievable ability to boil discussion of healthcare into sound bites, basic language."
John D. Rockefeller, Democratic senator, on Daschle's support for Hillary Clinton's healthcare reform efforts in the 1990s, Congressional Quarterly June 11, 1994
"His words embolden the enemy."
John Thune, the opponent who ousted Daschle from his Senate seat, after Daschle said of Iraq, "this president failed so miserably in diplomacy that we are now forced to war," Washington Post Sept. 24, 2004
"He's got a lot of friends in the Senate, and I've got a lot of friends in the Senate."
Robert Dole, former senator, on Daschle taking a job at lobbying firm Aston & Bird, where Dole also worked, Washington Post March 14, 2005
"He has the trust of folks from every angle of this issue: doctors, nurses and patients; unions and businesses; hospitals and advocacy groups, all of whom will have a seat at the table as we craft our plan."
Barack Obama, on why he chose Daschle to be Health and Human Services secretary, Los Angeles Times Dec. 11, 2008