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Sources: Napolitano top choice for homeland security secretary

  • Story Highlights
  • Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano top choice for homeland security
  • Ex-Sen. Tom Daschle to become head of HHS, sources say
  • More than half of those named to Obama's transition or staff posts have Clinton ties
  • Transition team says it's dedicated to creating team that's "diverse in many ways"
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(CNN) -- President-elect Barack Obama's top choice for secretary of homeland security is Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, multiple Democratic sources close to the transition told CNN on condition of anonymity.

One source said he believed the final decision depends on the vetting of the Democratic governor, much like the selection of Eric Holder for attorney general.

Also, multiple Democratic sources say billionaire Chicago businesswoman Penny Pritzker is Obama's choice for commerce secretary. Pritzker ran Obama's record-breaking fundraising effort, serving as the campaign's finance chair.

The sources say she will accept the job, which would be formally offered after vetting is complete. But whether the rigors of the Obama vetting process will present a challenge to a business person with no record in public office -- and presumably extensive financial holdings -- was unknown. See whose names are emerging »

Obama met last week with Sen. Hillary Clinton to discuss the possibility of her serving as secretary of state. The Obama team is also vetting her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who has made several concessions in moving the process along. Sen. Clinton's response is expected this week. Video Watch how Obama's team wants to avoid 'distractions' »

However, a Democratic official said Wednesday that Senate leadership is considering a new role for Sen. Clinton should she decide to remain in the Senate.

Also Wednesday, three sources close to the transition said Obama has chosen former Sen. Tom Daschle to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the former Senate majority leader has indicated he wants the job. Video Watch how Obama's Cabinet will have ties to lobbyists »

The sources said that Daschle negotiated that he will also serve as the White House health "czar," or point person, so that he will report directly to the incoming president.

By wearing two hats, Daschle -- not White House staffers -- will be writing the health care plan that Obama submits to Congress next year.

The sources said the timing of the announcement has not been worked out, but Daschle is likely to join the Obama transition team as the lead adviser on health issues in the next few weeks. Video Watch what the Daschle pick could mean »

An Obama transition official would not comment.

Daschle is currently billed as a "special public policy adviser" in the Washington office of the law firm Alston & Bird.

He is not a federally registered lobbyist, but his wife, Linda Daschle, is a registered lobbyist at the firm Baker Donelson, which has clients in health-related fields.

Critics question whether Obama's top staff picks so far represent the "change" that he promised during the campaign. Who would you choose for Obama's cabinet?

More than half of the people named to Obama's transition or staff posts have ties to President Clinton's administration.

In addition to Sen. Clinton and incoming White Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who is a former top aide to President Clinton, Eric Holder and Peter Orszag also have Clinton ties.

Holder, who is expected to be named attorney general, served as Clinton's deputy attorney general. Orszag, who will reportedly head the Office of Budget and Management, was Clinton's special assistant at the National Economic Council and served on the Council of Economic Advisers.

The Clinton-heavy team has caused Republicans to question Obama's call for change. Video Watch analysts weigh in on Obama's staff picks »

"I think several individuals are very frustrated to think that President-elect Obama may just cut and paste from some of the Democratic operatives from the Clinton administration and put them into his White House," said Leslie Sanchez, a Republican strategist and CNN contributor.

Republicans aren't the only ones who want Obama to branch out. Robert Kuttner, a liberal and author of "Obama's Challenge," says the president-elect should broaden his recruiting efforts.

"It's not as if the only competent people who ever served in government or who are capable of serving in government are veterans of the Clinton administration, so he's got to be careful how many Clintonistas he appoints to top level government posts," Kuttner said.

Before Clinton, however, Democrats had not been in the White House since Jimmy Carter, and many of those in Carter's administration are too old to serve again under Obama.


The Obama transition team said in a statement that they are dedicated to building a well-rounded administration.

"President-elect Obama is committed to putting together a competent team that is diverse in many ways, including experience. Serving in high level positions whether in government, in the private sector or in public service is seen as a positive," spokesman Nick Shapiro said.

CNN's Gloria Borger, Jason Carrol, Ed Henry, Jamie McIntyre, John King and Jessica Yellin contributed to this report.

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