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Kathleen Sebelius Resigns As Secretary Of Health & Human Services

Kathleen Sebelius testifies before a House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington

Former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who has served as Secretary of Health and Human Services but has found herself embattled over the past six months due to the botched roll out of the Affordable Care Act, is resigning:

WASHINGTON — Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, is resigning, ending a stormy five-year tenure marred by the disastrous rollout of President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act.

Mr. Obama accepted Ms. Sebelius’s resignation this week, and on Friday morning he will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace her, officials said.

The departure comes as the Obama administration tries to move beyond its early stumbles in carrying out the law, persuade a still-skeptical public of its lasting benefits, and help Democratic incumbents, who face blistering attack ads after supporting the legislation, survive the midterm elections this fall.

Officials said Ms. Sebelius, 65, made the decision to resign and was not forced out. But the frustration at the White House over her performance had become increasingly clear, as administration aides worried that the crippling problems at HealthCare.gov, the website set up to enroll Americans in insurance exchanges, would result in lasting damage to the president’s legacy.

Even last week, as Mr. Obama triumphantly announced that enrollments in the exchanges had exceeded seven million, she did not appear next to him for the news conference in the Rose Garden.
The president is hoping that Ms. Burwell, 48, a Harvard- and Oxford-educated West Virginia native with a background in economic policy, will bring an intense focus and management acumen to the department. The budget office, which she has overseen since April of last year, is deeply involved in developing and carrying out health care policy.

“The president wants to make sure we have a proven manager and relentless implementer in the job over there, which is why he is going to nominate Sylvia,” said Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff.

As noted, the White House is no doubt happy with getting Sebelius out of the way now that the enrollment period is over with. Whether changing whose in charge will matter, or whether it will amount to little more than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic remains to be seen.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    or whether Harry Reid will demand that her replacement be confirmed by a simple majority.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. @Dave Schuler:

    Under the new filibuster rules that he rammed through in November, that’s what will happen. For anything other than a Supreme Court nominee all they need is a simple majority.

    That’s why we’re probably likely to see a couple resignations from the Cabinet before the end of the year. If the GOP gains control of the Senate in November, confirmations from 2015 through 1/20/2017 are going to be next to impossible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  3. wr says:

    “The disastrous Obamacare roll-out…”

    I swear, Homer didn’t affix adjectives to nouns with the same kind of fervor as the lazy boobs who write about poltics today.

    Yes, the website didn’t work. Then they fixed it.

    Enough with the “disastrous.” It was a matter of a couple of weeks many months back.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 5

  4. dazedandconfused says:

    Ever see her field questions from even the most bat-sh%t crazy of congressmen in those hearings? She is unflappable. At least as likely Obama would keep her on if she would stay as not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  5. Tillman says:

    @wr:

    It was a matter of a couple of weeks many months back.

    It was a couple of months. October and November of 2013, the website wasn’t really useable. December is when most of the problems were cleared up. Remember, October was overshadowed in the news by the government shutdown.

    That said, I appreciate how Doug frames picking a new Health and Human Services Secretary as “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” That survey of brokers has really got you down about Obamacare, eh Doug?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 3

  6. superdestroyer says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Does it really matter who hold the cabinet level secretaries are in the last two years of an eight year administration. All of those positions could be filled by acting secretaries and no one would notice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. Jeremy R says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Whether changing whose in charge will matter, or whether it will amount to little more than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic remains to be seen.

    Speaking of those deck chairs, about that alarmist Forbes piece you promoted the other day — looks like it was complete and utter hogwash:

    Hear the one about NH health insurance rates going up 90 percent?

    WMUR-TV did not air a story about it.

    Here’s why: it’s all based on one anonymous person’s opinion.

    You see, Morgan Stanley conducted a survey of insurance agents in 34 different states. On page six of their report it details how many people they talked to in each state. In New Hampshire, they said they talked to one person, who they don’t name. Interestingly they also only got one response in nine other states. They got the most responses (31) from Idaho. For those keeping track, 21 percent of all survey respondents were from Idaho.

    Morgan Stanley never promised that this survey was based on actual insurance rate data in each state. But if you are interested in that the state Insurance Department hired an outside firm to do that analysis. They found that, after you factor in subsidies in the new health care law, the average premium would actually decrease eight percent this year.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  8. dennis says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Under the new filibuster rules that he rammed through in November …

    Oh, Doug . . .

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  9. James Pearce says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    “If the GOP gains control of the Senate in November, confirmations from 2015 through 1/20/2017 are going to be next to impossible.”

    Wasn’t the recess appointment process also changed? Could be gloomy for the nominees.

    It might be cool, though, if the GOP found something better to do with their majority than block a bunch of cabinet secretaries.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  10. bill says:

    @wr: other than that mrs lincoln, how was the play ? Cmon, it was a huge mess, now its just a regular mess. She made a good scapegoat, i felt bad for her actually.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 13

  11. edmondo says:

    The departure comes as the Obama administration tries to….help Democratic incumbents, who face blistering attack ads after supporting the legislation, survive the midterm elections this fall.

    Good luck with that – it just ain’t going to happen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  12. Stonetools says:

    @Jeremy R:

    So another Obamacare horror story was swiftly debunked? All this time and the right wing BS machine can’t find a single credible horror story?
    Maybe the Titanic imagery best fits the conservatives who bet their political future on the failure of Obamacare, only to find out that it appears to be working as advertised. Over ten million new people covered by now, Doug. We’re on the road to universal coverage. I know it sucks for you that Obamacare is succeeding. Get used to it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  13. David M says:

    I’m not sure who the HHS Secretary is matters very much anymore. The open enrollment period for Obamacare was rocky, but ultimately successful. The degrees of success vary by state, but the Democrats have basically done their part. There are a couple of Democratically controlled state exchanges that are working to improve before the next open enrollment period, but those aren’t going to have a large impact.

    The ultimate success of Obamacare on a national scale is simply dependent upon the GOP deciding to stop being evil. Passing routine fixes, expanding Medicaid and increasing the program outreach in GOP states, those are the remaining challenges for Obamacare. I don’t see the HHS Secretary having much of an impact.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  14. C. Clavin says:

    Obamacare won, Republicans lost. Sibelius did her job. Next challenge.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

  15. bill says:

    @C. Clavin: the prozac is working i guess, or is that ecstasy again? here’s “o’s ” next conquest- get black unemployment down……we can wait- they have been for a long time too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 8

  16. superdestroyer says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Of course, everyone must realize that the next challenge will be dealing with increased costs and the push to gold plate the benefits so that some medical specialties can make more money.

    I doubt if the federal government will let the subsidies to the states to increase Medicaid enrollment will be allowed to expire. Of course, by then, no one will remember that President Obama promised that the ACA would not add anything to be national debt.

    People need to remember that Obamacare is designed to fail in order to justify moving on to single payer healthcare and massive increases in federal control.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  17. stonetools says:

    After having thught about it overnight, maybe Sibelius’ retirement is the strategically right move. Had she retired after November, it would have be tough to replace her if the Republicans won back the Senate.
    Obama’s choice of a replacement (Ms. Burwell) seems a crackerjack candidate. A real Ms. Fixit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  18. anjin-san says:

    rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic

    I guess if a cliche is the best you can do, this is as good as any. It would be easy at this point for Democrats to argue that Obamacare could also be compared to the Apollo program. A very bad start, followed by a turnaround and considerable success, as well as proof of concept.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. Tyrell says:

    She probably got an inside line on a job with the Geek Squad.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. Robin Cohen says:

    How about the frustration of the Country over Obama’s performance as President?
    Ultimately the buck stops with him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2