Former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle was nominated on Thursday by President-elect Barack Obama as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Daschle, 61, could bring to Washington knowledge of Congress, especially the Senate, far deeper than Obama, analysts said.
He served in Congress from South Dakota for 26 years, including the 10 years as Democratic leader in the Senate.
As leader when the Democrats were in the minority and the majority, Daschle was known for his soft-spoken and reassuring style.
A former Air Force officer, his adult life has been mainly involved in Congress.
He was 30 when he was elected to the House in 1978, after serving as an aide to Senator James Abourezk, Democrat of South Dakota.
Daschle left the Senate after losing a brutal re-election bid to John Thune, a Republican Congressman, in 2004, the year Obama was elected to the Senate. So the two did not overlap as lawmakers.
But Daschle left office with a strong reputation as a scholar of Senate dynamics, and Obama eagerly welcomed his advice.
Daschle was one of the first people outside of Mr Obama's personal circle in whom Obama confided about his tentative plans to run for the White House.
The former Senator had famously told Obama over a lunch in downtown Washington before this year's presidential election: "Don't always think you'll have another shot. You never know what the future would hold."
Daschle may also be able to help the new administration find a political centre, but his post-Senate career moves could cause some complications.
In an era when lobbyists are not held in favour, Daschle has worked since leaving the Senate as a public policy advisor for a K Street law firm, Alston & Bird.
Although not a registered lobbyist, he provides advice to commercial clients in the fields of health care, energy, telecommunications and taxes, according to public documents.
His wife, Linda Hall Daschle, is regarded as one of the most influential professional lobbyists in the capital.
Daschle was born on December 9, 1947, in Aberdeen, S.D., and has three children.