Kansas Governor Obama’s Top Choice for HHS Secretary
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) "is emerging as the president's top choice" for HHS secretary, although other candidates remain under consideration, the New York Times reports.
Sebelius has eight years of experience as Kansas insurance commissioner and six years of experience as a governor in charge the state Medicaid program. In addition, "her strongest asset in the view of the White House may be her record of navigating partisan politics as a Democrat in one of the country's most Republican states," according to the Times.
President Obama "plans to turn his attention more to health care next week with a fiscal blueprint that will begin to advance his ideas about covering the uninsured" and might "make health care a theme of his prime-time address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night," the Times reports.
However, whether the Obama administration could complete the vetting process for Sebelius and nominate her as HHS secretary by next week remains undetermined.
The Obama administration likely would not name Sebelius as the director of the White House Office of Health Reform in addition to the nominee for HHS secretary, the Times reports (Baker/Pear, New York Times, 2/19).
The Obama administration had named former HHS-secretary designate Tom Daschle as director of the office, but he resigned from the position and withdrew his nomination earlier this month (Kraske, Kansas City Star, 2/18).
According to the Times, the designation of the two positions to one individual "was a special arrangement for Mr. Daschle" (New York Times, 2/19).
Asked about a possible nomination as HHS secretary, Sebelius spokesperson Beth Martino said that the governor remains "focused on the economic challenges currently facing Kansas, including our state budget and the impacts of the federal stimulus package" (Miami Herald, 2/18).
Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) said, "All signs indicate that she would be a terrific choice."
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said that Sebelius "knows health care as well as any governor in the United States."
Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, called Sebelius a "very smart choice" for HHS secretary. She said, "She has a good intellect, a big heart and tremendous expertise," adding, "As a blue governor in a red state, she also has lots of experience working across the political aisle" (New York Times, 2/19).
Other possible candidates for HHS secretary include:
- John Podesta, chief of staff to former President Clinton and chair of the Obama transition team;
- Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew, a former director of the Office of Management and Budget; and
- Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) (Kansas City Star, 2/18).
Meanwhile, several senior Senate Democrats have "intensified their push" for former Democratic National Committee Chair and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D), a physician who focused on health care during his tenure as governor, to become the nominee for HHS secretary, but the "effort has run into what Dean allies call Democratic 'family politics,'" The Hill reports.
According to The Hill, Dean "clashed with powerful Democrats," such as then-Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and current White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, "during his tenure as party head," and he has "rankled other prominent Democrats in the past" (Bolton, The Hill, 2/17).
Broadcast CoverageCNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" on Wednesday reported on possible candidates for HHS secretary (Henry, "Anderson Cooper 360," CNN, 2/18). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.