STATEMENT from former Sen. Tom Daschle on Feb. 3, 2009

I have just informed the president that I am withdrawing my name from consideration for secretary of health and human services.

To be chosen by President Obama to run the Department of Health and Human Services and to lead the reform of America’s health care system is one of the signal honors of an improbable career.

But if 30 years of exposure to the challenges inherent in our system has taught me anything, it has taught me that this work will require a leader who can operate with the full faith of Congress and the American people, and without distraction.

Right now, I am not that leader, and will not be a distraction. The focus of Congress should be on the urgent business of moving the president’s economic agenda forward, including affordable health care for every American.

We need the best care in America to be available to all Americans. We need this effort to succeed. Lives and livelihoods are at stake.

I will not be the architect of America’s health system reform, but I remain one of its most fervent supports. Thank you.

STATEMENT from President Barack Obama on Feb. 3, 2009

This morning, Tom Daschle asked me to withdraw his nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services. I accept his decision with sadness and regret.

Tom Daschle has devoted his life to public service and health care reform, so that every American has access to health care they can afford. I had hoped that he could bring this passion and expertise to bear to finally achieve that goal, which is so essential to the progress of our economy and the well-being of businesses and families across our nation.

Tom made a mistake, which he has openly acknowledged. He has not excused it, nor do I.

But that mistake, and this decision, cannot diminish the many contributions Tom has made to this country, from his years in the military to his decades of public service.

Now we must move forward, with our plan to lift this economy and put people back to work.

EXCERPT from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Feb. 3, 2009 press briefing:

Q    Thanks, Robert.  Why the about-face from here on Tom Daschle yesterday?  The President said he absolutely stood by him.  Today he accepts his withdrawal of his nomination.

MR. GIBBS:  You know, let me step back and do a little bit broader answer.  We're at a critical junction -- juncture in our nation's history, at a crossroads economically.  And the President has a robust agenda to deal with many of those problems.

As Senator Daschle said in the statement that we released, and told the President on the phone, that he did not want to be a distraction to that agenda.  Senator Daschle has served this country for almost three decades with distinction and I think America can be proud of that service.  The same is true for Ms. Killefer.

I think they both recognized that you can't set an example of responsibility, but accept a different standard in who serves.  They both decided and recognized that their nominations would distract from the important goals and the critical agenda that the President put forward.

Each joined in an effort to change this country -- in Senator Daschle's case, to help more Americans get affordable health care, to get our economy moving again, to institute some fiscal responsibility and some fiscal discipline.  The important work that the President does on those agenda items continues here today.  They realized that that agenda and the President's call for change was more important and did not want to be a distraction.