Breaking his streak of recalling officials from earlier Republican administrations, President-elect George W. Bush on Friday nominated Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson to be the next HHS secretary.
Bush said at a press conference in Washington that he chose Thompson, 59, in part because "real welfare reform" began in Wisconsin, where Thompson has served as governor since 1987. In addition to overseeing Medicare and Medicaid through HCFA, HHS provides financial assistance to low-income families. HHS has 61,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $400 billion.
Thompson would replace HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, who has held the post since 1993. Shalala will become president of the University of Miami in Florida in June.
If he is confirmed by the Senate early this year, Thompson would be the second consecutive HHS secretary from the Badger State.
Shalala came to Washington from Madison, Wis., where she was chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Thompson, a Republican, beat out some Washington insiders who were considered possible candidates, including Gail Wilensky, chairwoman of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and a former HCFA administrator under Bush's father, President George Bush.
Bush also nominated Anthony Principi to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, which operates the nation's VA healthcare system. Principi was a former deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Bush has yet to name a new HCFA administrator. Possible candidates include Kathleen Means, chief health analyst for the Senate Finance Committee; Howard Cohen, a former GOP aide for the House Commerce Committee who is a lobbyist with the Washington law firm Greenberg Traurig; Robert Brooks, M.D., Florida's secretary of health; and Bobby Jindal, former Louisiana secretary of health and hospitals who served as executive director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare from 1998 to 1999. MODERN Healthcare chose Jindal as an up-and-comer in 1997 (Sept. 15, 1997, p. 40).