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Archive for Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sebelius not expected to be confirmed until after Congress returns from recess

Sebelius takes questions about taxes, none on abortion

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, from left, stands with former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Tuesday in Washington, D.C., before the start of her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Sebelius is President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, from left, stands with former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Tuesday in Washington, D.C., before the start of her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Sebelius is President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

April 2, 2009, 9:53 a.m. Updated April 2, 2009, 5:07 p.m.

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Sebelius testifies before second Senate panel

Health secretary nominee Kathleen Sebelius discussed the position with a Senate panel on Thursday. Enlarge video

— Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius stepped around potential land mines on abortion and her own tax errors Thursday as she testified at a hearing en route to her expected confirmation as health and human services secretary.

Sebelius was not asked any questions about abortion, an issue that’s caused loud complaints from conservative groups angered about her vetoes of some abortion restrictions and the presence of a prominent abortion doctor at a reception at the governor’s residence.

Nor was Sebelius asked about what she has called “unintentional errors” related to charitable deductions, mortgage interest and business expenses on her most recent tax returns. She has paid nearly $8,000 in taxes and penalties.

Instead of focusing on those topics, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., tried to pin Sebelius down on the key question of whether every American should be required to buy health insurance.

In dodging his question, Sebelius said that she and President Barack Obama believe that all Americans should have insurance — even though Obama’s campaign proposal required just children to be covered. She avoided endorsing Baucus’ call for making all people legally responsible for becoming insured.

“There may be variations about how best to reach the goal most effectively, most cost effectively, most efficiently, with the best health outcomes of insuring every American,” Sebelius said.

“And I think he’s open to all of those proposals,” she said of Obama.

“I know the president is totally committed to that proposal, that every American should have health insurance.”

Some 48 million Americans are uninsured. The concept of how, or whether, universal coverage should be mandated is one of the toughest issues Congress and the administration must tackle as they seek to reshape the nation’s health care system.

Senators want to move health overhaul legislation forward by summer. But they decided Thursday to wait to vote on Sebelius’ nomination until they return from a two-week recess that’s about to start, so that lawmakers have more time to review her responses.

It’s taken Obama longer than expected to fill the HHS job because his first pick, former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, withdrew from consideration over $140,000 in back taxes and interest he owed on income from consulting and use of a car service.

Sebelius, on the other hand, appears set to win confirmation smoothly. Earlier this week the administration disclosed that she recently filed amended tax returns for three years after an accountant she hired discovered the errors.

The top Republican on the Finance Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, raised the tax issue in his opening statement Thursday and told her, “I take tax matters very seriously and I am eager for you to address those matters today.” But Grassley didn’t return to the issue during questioning, and Sebelius didn’t bring it up.

Sebelius had the backing of both of Kansas’ Republican senators, Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback — the latter a strong anti-abortion figure — and no senator raised abortion on Thursday or during a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Republican senators pressed Sebelius on Thursday to oppose a parliamentary maneuver that would allow health reform legislation to pass the Senate with 51 votes instead of a filibuster-proof 60 votes. Sebelius reiterated that she hoped for a bipartisan solution but didn’t want to take anything off the table.

There was also discussion of whether any health overhaul should include a government-run insurance option. Sebelius expanded on her support for the concept, saying that Kansas’ state employees’ health system includes a public plan that competes with private insurers without putting them out of business.

Sebelius disclosed that she and her husband would be divesting their small investment portfolio of four stocks and funds that could pose conflicts of interest if she’s confirmed. They are the Fidelity Advisor Energy Fund, Westar Energy Inc., Kronos Worldwide Inc. and NL Industries Inc.

The latter two companies manufacture titanium dioxide, an ingredient in cosmetics and milk, both of which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which is part of HHS.

Sebelius and her husband had $15,000 or less in stock in the three companies, and between $15,000 and $150,000 in the Fidelity fund, according to her financial disclosure form.

Comments

maxcrabb 5 years, 7 months ago

I think everyone here would have preferred Sebelius to not have found the mistakes in her tax returns and corrected them, so that someone else could find out about it and make her look irresponsible.

Instead she payed what she owed with little controversy, save for everyone on the LJWorld with an account...

I, on the other hand, am glad that she identified the problem and corrected it. I would feel the same way about any of you, too.

KsTwister 5 years, 7 months ago

$7000.00 Whew, big deal. I'll bet the governor doesn't do her own taxes, that the person who did probably was reviewed by another CPA. Until they prove she did this purposely I'll withhold my judgement(seems to be enough who really know something already). I had a CPA who made a $35k error, it happens, however I asked it to be looked at before I mailed it. Caprious individuals want execution before even hearing the details. I'll wait.

jumpin_catfish 5 years, 7 months ago

Obama says: We have vays to make you cooperate.

KS 5 years, 7 months ago

Please, please, please, please hurry up and confirm her. The sooner we get her out of Kansas, the better. I think they are waiting until our legislative session ends so we can't get anything important passed this session. We have to commend BHO. He has been sucessful in collecting about $184,000.00 in past due taxes from his nominees.. More than the IRS did.

WilburM 5 years, 7 months ago

The Washington magazine/news service CQ (Congressional Quarterly) is reporting that the reason Sebelius will not be confirmed until after the break is because one anonymous senator (a Republican) has put a hold on her confirmation, thus producing the delay. Basically, a secret, petty move. The lackof bipartisanship can come from diffrent directions and in different forms.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 5 years, 7 months ago

This is actually good news for Kansas. The delay means that she can veto the coal plants and the silly abortion restrictions.

Bob_Keeshan 5 years, 7 months ago

I wonder how many of the other posters on this thread realize Did I Say That is having a laugh.

A sad, pathetic little laugh but still having a laugh.

As foolish as Did I Say That's rampant comments are, the real fools are the ones who have attempted to respond.

Sean Livingstone 5 years, 7 months ago

I begin to sense the coming of sadness and doomsday in Kansas. And the beginning of "me or nothing" Republican politics in Kansas....

jumpin_catfish 5 years, 7 months ago

Hey WilburM, bipartisanship thats code for do what the democrats want, right?

Soapdish 5 years, 7 months ago

Complete thread departure here but I swear to you it looks like Bob and Pat are staring at Kathleen's sweater puppies...

onceajhawkalwaysajhawk 5 years, 7 months ago

What are those two Dirty Old Men admiring in the picture???

LiberalDude 5 years, 7 months ago

LOL @ onceajhawkalwaysajhawk's comment. I laugh every time I see that picture, too! Roberts and Dole definitely look like they are checking out our governor!

HermioneElliott 5 years, 7 months ago

They seem to be staring fixedly at her chest. Making it illegal for an American not to have health insurance is wrong and it is stupid. What is the penalty going to be? Is every uninsured person in this country going to be put on Medicare or Medicaid?

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

Sen Max Baucus has received $413,000 over a period of time from the insurance special interest influence congressional votes fund. He stinks.

No doubt the repubs have been very busy collecting money from the same fund. Isn't this known as corruption?

At least Gov Sebelius was smart enough to realize that the latest repub "character assassination" tool is back taxes. Then took reasonable steps to acquire a source to review the situation and then took care of the matter directly rather than pretend it did not exist. The ethical response.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

HR 676 would cover every person for all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care, hearing services including hearing aids, chiropractic, durable medical equipment, palliative care, and long term care.

A family of four making the median income of $56,200 would pay about $2,700 in payroll tax for all health care costs.

HR 676 ends deductibles and co-payments. HR 676 would save hundreds of billions annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs.

Health care costs and facts:

http://www.nchc.org/facts/cost.shtml

http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2008/0508harrison.html

Senate and House Legislation: http://www.guaranteedhealthcare.org/legislation/hr-676-conyers/united-states-national-health-insurance-act

http://www.healthcare-now.org/2009/03/single-payer-health-reform-bill-introduced-in-senate/

http://www.healthcare-now.org/campaigns/win-win/

Flap Doodle 5 years, 7 months ago

I read the first six words of the headline & thought "well, okay".

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