Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama’s nominee to be
Secretary of Health and Human Services, will address the Senate
Committee on Health, Labor, and Pensions at 10 this morning in her
first confirmation hearing. The agency has been without a permanent head since Obama took office; Obama’s first nomination for HHS
Secretary, Sen. Tom Daschle, flopped over Daschle’s tax impropriety. Obama then nominated Sebelius March
A number of Bush-era appointees remain in senior positions at the
agency (including Steve Galson, the former FDA official who signed the
non-approvable letter for over-the-counter access to emergency
contraception for women younger than 18, who’s both Acting Assistant
Secretary of Health and Human Services and Acting Surgeon
General). And Obama has proposed an ambitious health care reform
agenda, which he says he wants to pass this year and which forms a
cornerstone of his economic recovery plan. In other words, the agency
needs a leader, sooner rather than later. Sebelius, a two-term
Democratic governor of a red state, and former insurance commissioner,
has technical and bipartisan experience that suggest she’s a strong choice.
Yet anti-choicers greeted Sebelius’s nomination with fury, claiming that, as LifeNews put it, she "has one of the most radical pro-abortion
record of any elected official."
They decried Sebelius’s supposed connection to Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, arguing that the fact that Sebelius recruited a Democratic challenger to Republican Attorney General Phill Kline
(who prosecuted Tiller despite no evidence of misconduct) meant Tiller and Sebelius
were engaged in a conspiracy. Just last Friday, Tiller was acquitted
on all misdemeanor charges. (A medical board subsequently announced it
would be investigating similar charges.)
Late last week, Sebelius signed an
anti-choice bill, rushed to a vote just days after she was nominated,
that mandates that clinics offer women the opportunity to view an
ultrasound or listen to fetal heartbeat. The legislation also requires
that the state create and distribute pamphlets and a video about
abortion. The Kansas Department of Health and the Environment will be
responsible for the language in the pamphlet; ProKanDo’s Julie Burkhart
says they’ll work with the Department to ensure that the language is
medically accurate and unbiased. (The pamphlet will be required to list all locations that provide free ultrasounds, which are typically crisis pregnancy centers.)
and, additionally, this time she’s in the national spotlight,” said
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, told the Kansas City Star.
“She didn’t do
this for women. She did it for one woman (Sebelius).” Sebelius last
year vetoed a similar bill that included provisions to track the
reasons women seek late-term abortions.
Finance Committee, will occur on Thursday. The Finance Committee will vote on whether to present her nomination to the full Senate for confirmation. Both Kansas senators, including rabid anti-choicer Sen. Sam Brownback, are on record supporting the nomination. The anti-choice groups opposing Sebelius have an uphill fight ahead of them.
Steiger will be at this morning’s hearing, and will file a report this afternoon — stay posted!