She’s Not In Kansas Anymore: Kathleen Sebelius as HHS Secretary

The Caucus, NY Times’ political blog, reports that Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius has been picked by President Obama to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. The official announcement will be made on Monday at the White House. 

Of course, this is after Tom Daschle stepped down from the position before he even began arising from an admission of tax impropriety. In addition to his duties as Secretary of HHS, Daschle was also tapped to lead health care reform efforts for the White House – a role that Sebelius will not play. 

But as Julie Burkhardt wrote on this site last week, Sebelius has been called out by pro-choice and common ground movement members as well as health care reform advcoates as an excellent pick. Governor Sebelius has led a "reliably Republican state" for years – as a two term governor of Kansas as well as its insurance commissioner and she understands the politics of reaching across the aisle. 

Sebelius is a reproductive health and rights ally, to be sure, something anti-choice advocates, at the first whiff of Sebelius as a possible HHS secretary pick, immediately called out. But, Burkhardt writes, there is much for social conservatives to be encouraged by if they are able:

What is true
and what the anti-choice advocates don’t like is that Governor Sebelius
is unequivocally pro-reproductive health care. But, that does not mean
abortion care alone. What they choose to ignore is that she is a strong
advocate for the health care of children, for prenatal care for women
and for preventive medicine. This, unfortunately, gets lost in the debate.  

It would behoove
social conservatives to take the Governor’s cue on this: that comprehensive
medical care, which also includes health care for pregnant women and
children, would go a long way to serve their so-called "pro-life"
agenda. However, the earth will most certainly freeze over before an
admission of any compatibility on the issue surfaces.

In his speech to Congress last week, President Obama singled out health care reform as a key issue for his administration in the coming months. Governor Sebelius will play an important role in this reform effort, of course. As The Caucus reports

Ms. Sebelius will be a key figure in the battle to extend health coverage to more than 40 million uninsured. In the spending plan Mr. Obama released last week, he proposed setting aside a $634 billion “reserve fund” over the next 10 years to pay for changes in the health care system.

Hopefully, Governor Sebelius’ confirmation will be smooth. As more Americans lose their jobs every day, and with those jobs their health care coverage, the health care system is like a bubble waiting to pop. Sebelius’ history of bipartisanship, as Burkhardt notes, is extremely valuable in overseeing such a vulnerable system at this point in history. 

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact

  • invalid-0

    Can we finally have a modern, state-of-the-art, universal health care system, which benefits all Americans!

  • scott-swenson

    This is such an outstanding choice it is hard to imagine why it took President Obama so long to make it, I suppose he felt he owed Daschle something and certainly his profile in DC was higher. But for those of you who are just learning about this amazing woman, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is one of the most thoughtful, careful, pragmatic, politicians in the country. She has her feet firmly planted on the ground and is not afraid to take on the toughest issues, opponents, and ideologies to do what is right — not just what she thinks is right as many politicians do — but genuinely taking stands for policies that are balanced and benefit the most people. Sebelius is filled with integrity, has an incredible ability to see through to the heart of the most complex issues and has throughout her entire career focused on doing whatever job she was in well without looking at any job as a stepping stone to something else. As a result, she has excelled as a legislator, insurance commissioner, and governor. Perhaps the best part is she is not caught up in the ways of Washington the way Daschle was, so she may in fact be better suited to take on health care than even he was. Most Americans will never know Kathleen Sebelius, but they will see in her the rare qualities of leadership that are the ideal of public service and the noble calling that politics can be when it is not sullied by greed, corruption, and ego. She is a powerful woman that will inspire not only girls and young women to become more involved, but will set an example that young men will follow too, of compassionate and careful leadership that moves a progressive agenda forward, lifts people, and uses the public trust and purse with wisdom. As someone to whom family is paramount, she understands the reality of all facets of health care and that far too many families are teetering because they lack access to basic services. She has a laser-light focus that will not allow the distractions of a vocal minority wishing to use social issues to derail good government to succeed, and will implement policies that are inclusive and respectful of every American’s beliefs rather than trying to impose one set of values on everyone as the previous Administration did at HHS. She will promote policies that encourage individual responsibility and wise choices. Americans should watch her closely because she is a model of an American leader we would all be smart to follow.

    See also: Ad Astra Per Aspera: A Star Turns Red Kansas Blue, 2006

    Be the change you seek,

    Scott Swenson, Editor

  • invalid-0

    Since Governor Kathleen Sebelius has already been picked by president Obama as the head of Department of Health and Human Services, many people are hoping that she will be a good leader and will participate in the plan for national health care reform, which calls for accessibility and affordability, as well as quality care for all Americans. Our broken health care system should be fix immediately because many people were left uninsured and suffering due to lack of access to proper and affordable health care. Thankfully, the Walgreens, the prescription megastore, is offering free healthcare to those who qualify for a while. It seems likely that it will last the rest of 2009, so those who can’t get payday loans to throw money away on a doctor, can head to their nearest Walgreens that has one of the Take Care clinics that they installed in certain store locations. Proof of unemployment must be furnished, or you’ll be turned away. The Take Care Clinics were started back in 2007, to provide quality healthcare to those who couldn’t afford it as easily as regular care, which is a very charitable thing for Walgreens to do.

  • invalid-0

    I think that Mr. President has done a fabulous job and has put in a lot of thinking into his choices to fill in the posts at the white house. Many of his candidates are all tried and tested war horses who are sure to do their work deligently and faithfully. I think there are many more surprises in store for us throughout his tenure

  • invalid-0

    Kathleen Sebelius is one of the right choise for that position to fill the vacuum left behind. Johana-Solar Power