Archive for Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Senate committee approves Sebelius nomination by wide margin

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has taken one step closer to becoming secretary of Health and Human Services.

April 21, 2009, 9:52 a.m. Updated April 21, 2009, 5:20 p.m.


Senate committee vote confirming Sebelius is delivered

The Finance Committee chairman is told the results of the committee vote and they return to other business. Enlarge video

Preparing for a ceremony? Chairs, podium, flags and curtains were set up on second floor of the Statehouse. Minutes after this photograph was taken, members of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' office picked up the chairs. Sebelius' confirmation to lead the federal health and human services department is pending in the U.S. Senate. If confirmed, Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson will be sworn in as governor.

Preparing for a ceremony? Chairs, podium, flags and curtains were set up on second floor of the Statehouse. Minutes after this photograph was taken, members of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' office picked up the chairs. Sebelius' confirmation to lead the federal health and human services department is pending in the U.S. Senate. If confirmed, Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson will be sworn in as governor.

Kathleen Sebelius: Two decades in politics

Kathleen Sebelius is the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services in Obama's Cabinet. She has served as Kansas' governor since 2002 and before that was insurance commissioner and a state representative.

— Kathleen Sebelius won Senate committee approval as health secretary over Republican opposition Tuesday, putting her on track for a final Senate vote in coming days.

Her expected confirmation would complete President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, which held its first formal meeting Monday without Sebelius there.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 15 to 8 in favor of sending the nomination of Kansas’ two-term Democratic governor to the full Senate. Just two of 10 committee Republicans joined majority Democrats in voting “yes,” signaling GOP concerns over Sebelius’ ties to a Kansas abortion doctor, as well as some broader skepticism about Obama’s health care plans.

Republican senators were under pressure from anti-abortion activists to oppose Sebelius.

But the partisan vote sparked an angry response and an apparent threat from one committee Democrat, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York.

“I was surprised by the fact that so few Republicans supported a moderate, qualified candidate like Gov. Sebelius,” Schumer said. “It’s an ominous signal of the level of cooperation we can expect from the Republicans on health care.”

Schumer then suggested that the vote was an invitation for Democrats to pass health care legislation using a controversial parliamentary maneuver that would pre-empt Republicans from mounting a filibuster to block passage.

Republicans have said such an approach would poison attempts to get a bipartisan deal on one of Obama’s top priorities: legislation reshaping the nation’s health care system to reduce costs and cover some 50 million uninsured Americans.

The top Finance Committee Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, disputed Schumer’s interpretation of the vote.

“There’s no signal. Republicans are at the table on health reform,” said Grassley spokeswoman Jill Gerber.

The White House praised the vote. “Gov. Sebelius strongly shares the president’s commitment to high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans and if confirmed, will work to bring down the crippling cost of health care and expand coverage,” said White House spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield.

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said he expected a vote in the full Senate within the week.

Sebelius was Obama’s second pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services after his first choice — former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle — withdrew in February over unpaid taxes.

Sebelius, 60, would oversee a sprawling agency with 65,000 employees, a $750 billion budget and responsibility for the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Medicare and Medicaid insurance programs for the elderly, disabled and poor — among others.

The committee vote came after several Republicans voiced concerns in recent days about Sebelius’ initial failure to disclose to senators the full extent of campaign donations she got from Dr. George Tiller, a late-term abortion doctor who is under investigation by the Kansas medical board. After the discrepancy became public, Sebelius called it an unintentional oversight and corrected the error.

The only senator to speak about Sebelius at Tuesday’s committee meeting raised a different concern. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., questioned Sebelius’ commitment to ensuring that the government doesn’t try to interfere in Americans’ health care choices.

“I believe in the right of every American to choose the doctor, the hospital, the health plan of his or her choice,” Kyl said. He contended that Sebelius had displayed “insufficient commitment to these principles.”

Sebelius had said she didn’t believe it was the government’s role to dictate health care. But Kyl’s comments underscored GOP concerns as Congress gets to work on the Obama administration’s plans to overhaul the nation’s $2.4 trillion health care system. Some Republicans fear a shift toward government-run health care.

The two Republicans who voted “yes” on Sebelius were Sen. Pat Roberts, from her home state of Kansas, and moderate Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine.


Orwell 9 years ago

Good, except it's the full Senate that confirms. The committee vote is to recommend confirmation.

And it would have been nice to know the specifics of the "wide margin," and which Senator(s) voted against.

purplesage 9 years ago

Ahh -- relief is on the way for Kansas. But, then again, she's hardly gone from the scene, just that the influence will be focused on certain policy for the entire country. Not good.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years ago

This is just following the same pattern that's becoming well established in this congress. Republicans are largely irrelevant, so they'll vote against any Democratic measure or nominee just to shore up what little base they have left.

oldcat 9 years ago

Is it true that the Republicans 2 choices for voting are not to vote at all or vote no? A yes vote is not allowed?

preebo 9 years ago

My best to her on this extraordinary opportunity. I was initially against her nomination, in favor of Dr. Howard Dean, but I believe that she has some good policy notions for HHS. Kansas' loss is our nations gain.

METALQ2 9 years ago

Great news. There goes a big portion of that $328 million hole.

Flap Doodle 9 years ago

She needs to generate some more serious tax problems to make it into the top rank of Barry's regime.

feeble 9 years ago

Another slap to the face for PalinPAC. It must sting to be so ineffective.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years ago

Would that it were true, Tom, but, unfortunately, way too many Democrats succumbed to BushCo's demagoguery and voted for all kinds of disastrous legislation.

yankeevet 9 years ago

Did she get her taxes paid so she can get this job???

Orwell 9 years ago

Yankeevet: Paid some time ago. Please try to keep up with the rest of the class.

J-W: Thanks for expanding the story. The actual vote, along with the predictable talking points from knee-jerk opponents of anyone with any view but their own, gave us a more complete picture.

Frank Smith 9 years ago

The whine is deafening.

For the non-readers blogging above, Sebelius was confirmed by all "D"s on the Finance Committee plus Snowe, a consistent moderate vote, and Pat Roberts who is probably overjoyed that she's leaving Kansas, she being a thorn in his side.

Sebelius carefully reviewed old tax returns as appointments are given considerable scrutiny (unless we're talking about people such as Bush appointee Jay Bybee) and figured they deserved a second look. Upon consideration, a question arose from her and an amended return was filed with what was a picayune underpayment.

As far as the underreporting, again for the non-readers here, Kathleen reported her direct contributions from Tiller. She didn't report how much he or his PAC had given to her PAC. That wasn't the question asked of her. BFD.

I love it that Republibots are howling about trivial matters when the torture memos have just been released and Alberto Gonzales has been directly fingered for obstructing prosecution and wrist slapping Israeli spies.

The real story here is that the 501(c)3 Family "Research" Council that laughably describes itself as "nonpartisan" and that clown Tony Perkins failed to stop Kathleen's appointment, despite pulling out all the stops.

jumpin_catfish 9 years ago

Kathleen Sebelius has not been a great governor in my book but she is probably better qualified in many ways then the guy she's going to work for, not that I would vote for her or Obama.

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