Senate Confirms Kansas Gov. Sebelius as HHS Secretary
President Obama on Tuesday swore in Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) as HHS secretary after the Senate voted 65-31 to approve her nomination, Politico reports (Kady, Politico, 4/28). The vote was largely along party lines, with nine Republicans voting to confirm Sebelius (Lengell, Washington Times, 4/29).
Although Senate Republicans had attempted to delay Sebelius' confirmation because of concerns about her stance on abortion, they opted not to continue procedural objections in light of the recent swine flu emergency (Kamen, Washington Post, 4/29). Sebelius was the last member of Obama's Cabinet to be confirmed and sworn in (Brady, Roll Call, 4/28).
Obama said, "We wanted to swear her in right away because we've got a lot of health challenges," adding, "We need all hands on deck. I expect her to hit the ground running. She is the right person at the right time for the job." Following Sebelius' swearing-in ceremony, she received a swine flu emergency briefing in the White House Situation Room by John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security (Goldstein, Wichita Eagle, 4/29).
Although Sebelius' first focus as HHS secretary will be on the swine flu emergency, her larger task will be helping to pass an overhaul of the U.S. health care system, according to the AP/Kansas City Star (Werner, AP/Kansas City Star, 4/29). The Wall Street Journal reports that Senate leaders, with whom Sebelius will be working, on Wednesday will begin drafting guidelines on how to overhaul the U.S. health care system (Adamy, Wall Street Journal, 4/28).
More Positions To Fill
Of the 20 positions at HHS that require Senate confirmation, Obama has named nominees for five of them, the New York Times reports. However, Sebelius is the only one who has been confirmed (Pear, New York Times, 4/29). Other positions Obama has yet to name nominees for include deputy HHS secretary, FDA commissioner, CDC director, surgeon general and assistant secretary for preparedness and response (AP/Kansas City Star, 4/29).