Paul Sancya/AP
Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius Chosen for Health and Human Services Secretary

March 02, 2009 10:30 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Nearly a month after the withdrawal of his first choice, President Barack Obama has selected the governor of Kansas as his Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Sebelius Won't Be in Kansas Anymore

On Saturday a White House official said that Obama had selected Gov. Sebelius, and she accepted the nomination

"The governor has unique insight and experience to draw on as President Obama's partner in lowering health care costs and expanding coverage," said an unnamed White House official who was quoted by the Kansas City Star. A formal announcement is expected today.

Sebelius, 60, is married with two sons. She's an Ohio native, and her father was governor of that state. Her political career started in 1987 when she was elected to the Kansas House. She became the state's Insurance Commissioner in 1995, and served there until she was elected governor in 2002. Sebelius was elected to a second term in 2006. 

U.K. paper The Independent reports that Sebelius' pro-choice views in conservative Kansas are so unpopular in some quarters that "the Archbishop of Kansas City has forbidden priests from giving the Catholic-born Governor communion." 

MSNBC on Sunday reported that "anti-abortion rights groups have staunchly lobbied against her nomination."

Background: Delay led to speculation

Although former senator and Obama mentor Tom Daschle’s withdrawal came on Feb. 3, the administration had been slow to announce his replacement for Secretary of Health and Human Services, leading some to suggest that any planned health care reform may be hindered by the delay.

Although the administration had not hinted at a replacement for Daschle, who stepped down amid questions regarding unpaid taxes, the Associated Press last month has reported that Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen was under consideration.

Responsible for moving more than 170,000 Tennessee residents off Medicaid as a part of a 2005 health benefit overall plan, Bredesen had been hailed by conservatives for his willingness to make tough decisions.

At the time, Tennessee had the highest percentage of residents on Medicaid and one of the lowest levels of tax revenue collections in the country.

Bresden’s sharp cuts in state health benefits while governor led proponents of broader health coverage to worry that his selection might mean national cuts. In response, these proponents began to signal their support for another Democratic governor at the top of Obama’s list: Sebelius.

An early supporter of the Obama candidacy, Sebelius attracted a number of admirers thanks to her role as insurance commissioner for eight years before becoming governor.

Related Topics: Filling Commerce, Labor slots

Last week, Obama nominated Gary Locke, Washington state's former governor, to lead the Department of Commerce.

The announcement that Vermont’s Republican Senator Judd Gregg would not seek the nomination because of irreconcilable policy disagreements with the current administration, marked the second nominee for Commerce to step aside.

Obama’s first choice, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson fell through in early January after an investigation into alleged influence peddling became too much of a distraction.  

Last week also saw another cabinet post being filled. It took six weeks of deliberation and delay, but on Feb. 24 the Senate confirmed Hilda Solis as the Secretary of Labor.

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