NASHVILLE - Gov. Phil Bredesen told top legislative leaders this morning that he doesn't think President Obama will nominate him for the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary position, lawmakers said.
House Democratic Leader Gary Odom of Nashville confirmed that Gov. Bredesen, a Democrat, made the remarks during his weekly meeting with House and Senate leaders.
"It came up during breakfast," Rep. Odom said. "He basically said he's expecting to remain governor of the state of Tennessee."
Gov. Bredesen's name has surfaced in Washington news reports as a top candidate for Health and Human Services. The position came open after former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle withdrew his name following a blitz of controversy over unpaid taxes and his leap into lucrative private consulting work once he departed the Senate.
But Gov. Bredesen has come under fierce attack from liberal health care activists and others for his cuts to TennCare, the state's version of Medicaid. About 320,000 enrollees have been cut from the program.
On Tuesday, the national liberal group, MoveOn.org, criticized the governor and began circulating an e-mail petition urging the president to nominate a "progressive champion."
The governor, who has refused to confirm whether he is under consideration for the Health and Human Services slot, said the cuts were necessary because TennCare was economically unsustainable and advocacy groups were unwilling to compromise on cost-saving measures.
"He made some reference to some of the controversy regarding TennCare issues," Rep. Odom said Wednesday. "I think you saw him pushing back yesterday against activist groups who were being critical of his consideration for that position."
Rep. Odom chuckled as he noted that Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, the Senate speaker, has been "encouraging him to pursue the position with vigor and has probably written some letters of recommendation himself."
Lt. Gov. Ramsey would succeed Gov. Bredesen if the governor were to vacate the office.
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