Topeka The departure of Tom Daschle as President Barack Obama’s nominee for secretary of health and human services on Tuesday fueled speculation that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius may be picked for the job.
National media covering Daschle’s withdrawal from consideration because of tax problems immediately put Sebelius on a short list of possible replacements.
Asked to respond to the reports, Sebelius’ office put out the following statement:
“Today’s news about Senator Daschle is unfortunate. Governor Sebelius has enormous respect for Tom Daschle, his talents and his many years of service to our country.
“Governor Sebelius is focused on working through the challenges facing our state and continues to believe reforming health care is absolutely vital to our economic recovery.
“She will continue to do what she can to help President Obama fix our economy, improve our health care system and get America back on track.”
The statement is different from her announcement in December when Sebelius said she didn’t want to be considered for a Cabinet position. At that time, Sebelius said she made the decision because of the worsening budget problems facing Kansas.
Those budget problems haven’t gotten any better. State revenues continue to fall, and Sebelius and Republican legislative leaders have been at odds over how to close a $186 million budget gap that could grow to $1 billion by the start of the next fiscal year July 1.
Questions about a possible job in the Obama administration came up again last month when New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew as Obama’s choice for commerce secretary. At that time, Sebelius said she stood by her decision to stay in Kansas.
But secretary of HHS would be more in Sebelius’ range. Prior to her election as governor in 2002, she served eight years as state insurance commissioner where she worked on many health care issues.
Sebelius was also reportedly among the top group considered by Obama to be his running mate. Obama eventually picked Joe Biden.