President Bush nominated Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Leavitt to succeed Tommy Thompson as HHS secretary.
Leavitt, 53, joined the Bush administration a year ago after 11 years as Utah's governor.
When Thompson announced his resignation Dec. 3, CMS Administrator Mark McClellan and HHS Deputy Secretary Claude Allen were presumed to be the most likely candidates to succeed Thompson.
In nominating Leavitt, Bush called him "a fine executive" and "an ideal choice to lead" HHS, one of the largest federal agencies and overseer of Medicare and Medicaid.
Others rumored as possible candidates were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and retiring Sen. John Breaux (D-La.).