Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is the latest lawmaker to back Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, for secretary of Health and Human Services.
In a letter to President Obama that was released on Sunday, Sanders backed Dean, the former Vermont governor and physician, as someone who is "eminently qualified" to reform healthcare after Obama's first choice, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), withdrew his nomination last week.
"Governor Dean understands, as you do, that all Americans are entitled to health care as a right of citizenship, and that we must pay far more attention to the needs of our children if we are to have a healthy and prosperous society," Sanders wrote in the letter. "As you well know, reforming our health care system will not be easy. It will take somebody with determination and focus to lead that effort. I think that Howard Dean is that person."
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Sanders joins Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) in endorsing Dean for the post.
In an interview with the HuffingtonPost last week, Harkin said that Dean's nomination would be a "very good move" for Obama. "He brings all the background and experience. He's very strong on prevention and wellness, which I'm very strong on. I think he'd make an outstanding secretary of HHS," Harkin said.
Dean and Sanders have not been lifelong political allies. In a May 22, 2005 interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," moderator Tim Russert noted that Dean in 1996 said he would never vote for Sanders, opting to leave the ballot blank.
Dean responded, "Bernie and I have had our difficulties over the years. We've had our strong disagreements."
Saying "personalities and differences have to be put aside," Dean endorsed Sanders in his bid for the Senate seat in the 2006 election, although Sanders is a registered independent. Sanders caucuses with Democratic senators.
Dean, whose 2004 campaign for the presidency made heavy use of the Internet, has won over fans recently on Facebook who have set up a group urging his nomination to Health and Human Services secretary. A Facebook group , "Appoint Howard Dean to HHS!", has nearly 5,000 members.
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