Senate Schedules Confirmation Vote for Sebelius Despite Some Republican Objections
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday delayed a vote on Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' (D) nomination as HHS secretary, saying that lawmakers needed more time to consider the nomination, Roll Call reports (Brady, Roll Call, 4/23). Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) attempted to obtain a unanimous vote to move forward with the nomination (Armstrong, CQ Today, 4/23). However, McConnell objected, effectively delaying the vote until next week.
McConnell said, "It was fairly contentious. Not a party-line vote, but a number of members on my side opposed the nomination," adding, "So at least for today I'm not able to enter into a consent agreement" (Roll Call, 4/23). The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday voted 15-8 to approve Sebelius as HHS secretary. The vote was along party lines, with Democrats voting for approval and Republicans against, except for Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 4/22).
Reid and Senate Republicans later in the day reached an agreement on the Sebelius vote, under which eight hours of debate will start at 10 a.m. on April 28. Rather than a simple majority to approve the nomination, Sebelius' confirmation will require 60 votes (CQ Today, 4/23). According to Roll Call, Sebelius is expected to eventually be approved by the Senate (Roll Call, 4/23). In related news, Politico on Friday examined how HHS is the only Cabinet department without a secretary (Budoff Brown, Politico, 4/24).
RNC Chair Calls for Nomination Withdrawal
Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele on Thursday called on President Obama to withdraw Sebelius' nomination unless she answers more questions regarding her stance on abortion, the Boston Globe reports. According to Steele, Sebelius has not been forthcoming about her ties to a Kansas physician who performs late-term abortions. Sebelius acknowledged earlier this year that she received $23,000 more in campaign funds from the physician than she had originally reported. Steele in a statement said, "Significant questions remain about ... Sebelius' evolving relationship with a late-term abortion doctor as well as about her position on the practice of late-term abortions," adding, "If Governor Sebelius and the Obama administration are unwilling to answer these questions, President Obama should withdraw her nomination." Obama administration officials declined to comment (Boston Globe, 4/24).