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Leavitt Shying Away from Interview Until January

Leavitt Shying Away from Interview Until January

Posted - Dec. 15, 2004 at 5:43 p.m.



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Richard Piatt ReportingFormer Governor Mike Leavitt is shying away from media interviews until January. At that time, Leavitt will face confirmation hearings to be Administrator of Health and Human Services. Before his confirmation as Administrator for the EPA, Mike Leavitt faced critics of his and the President's environmental record. Next month, Leavitt could face even tougher questions for a bigger job.

Administering the Department of Health and Human Services means he'll take on everything from medical policy to Social Security--300 different Federal programs in all. One of Leavitt's biggest cheerleaders for the new job is Utah's head of human services.

Robin Arnold-Williams, Utah Department of Human Services: “I know a lot of critics say, ‘He didn’t throw anything.’ I don’t call doubling the number of caseworkers from 300 to 600 doing nothing. I call it doing something major.”

Others give Leavitt a more mixed review. Severe critics argue that even though Leavitt inherited the infamous 'David C' case, he still didn't do enough to reform the state's foster care system. Karen Crompton of Voices for Utah Children weighs Leavitt's record a little differently, noting a mixed record for helping underprivileged, children for example.

Karen Crompton, Voices For Utah Children: "If you're talking about children's health insurance, he was a very strong advocate for the children's health insurance program in this state. On the other hand it was his administration that capped enrollment for the ‘CHIP” program three years ago."

Crompton says Leavitt could be in a position to help tweak the Welfare system in HHS, and do much more to help the working poor. There is already talk that Williams could be tapped to help Leavitt take on the issues at the massive HHS. But Williams says she's heard nothing from Leavitt yet.

Robin Arnold-Williams, Utah Department of Human Services: "There's been no discussions on that. I'm busy weighing options for the future."

For now Leavitt is avoiding media interviews about his nomination, at the request of the White House. Chances are the public won't hear him defend his record on Health and Human Services until he's on the Senate hot-seat.

In the past, the Health and Human Services nominee has actually had two confirmation hearings. But there is no specific information about Leavitt's process yet.

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