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Daschle pleads his case to Senate

February 3, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Fighting to salvage his Cabinet nomination, Tom Daschle pleaded his case yesterday from morning until night while apologizing for failing to pay more than $120,000 in taxes. President Obama said he was "absolutely" sticking with his nominee for health and human services secretary, and a key senator added an important endorsement.

Democrat Max Baucus of Montana, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the panel that will have the first say on his fate and that was meeting privately with him into last evening, said Daschle has been "an invaluable and expert partner" in efforts toward healthcare reform.

Daschle, the former Senate Democratic leader, expressed his remorse in a letter to the Finance Committee, saying he was "deeply embarrassed and disappointed" about what he said was an unintentional failure to pay taxes that he owed.

After Obama announced his nomination, Daschle filed amended returns for 2005-07 to report $128,203 in back taxes and $11,964 in interest.

After an hour-long private meeting with the committee, Daschle apologized anew.

"It was completely inadvertent, but that's no excuse," he said. "I apologize to President Obama, to my colleagues, and to the American people."

Meanwhile, a financial disclosure form Daschle filed a week ago shows that he made more than $200,000 in the past two years speaking to members of the healthcare industry that Obama wants him to reform.

The speaking fees were just a portion of the more than $5.2 million the former senator earned over the last two years as he advised health insurers and hospitals and worked in other industries such as energy and telecommunications, according to a financial statement filed with the Office of Government Ethics.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Dodd set to refinance two loans under scrutiny
HARTFORD - Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, whose two mortgages with a troubled lender are under a Senate ethics investigation and whose committee has oversight over the mortgage and banking industries, said yesterday he will refinance the loans.

Dodd said he sought no special treatment from Countrywide Financial Corp., when he refinanced his Washington and East Haddam, Conn., homes in 2003.

Dodd has acknowledged participating in a VIP program at Countrywide, which he thought referred to upgraded customer service, not reduced rates. "Knowing what I know now, I regret having ever done business with Countrywide," Dodd said.

The bank, a leading subprime lender at the center of the mortgage meltdown, was sold to Bank of America Corp. last year and has been the focus of allegations that it gave favorable loan terms to lawmakers.

Dodd played a key role in crafting the $700 billion Wall Street rescue plan, which allows the government to spend billions of dollars to buy bad mortgage-related securities and other devalued assets from troubled financial institutions.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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