She tries to work with both Republicans and Democrats, but is inexperienced when its comes to working with Congress. And her support for abortion rights is a flashpoint that will generate serious protest. These are among the observations from various corners now that President Barack Obama has nominated Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary.
For instance, USA Today points out that Sebelius would bring “expertise as a former state health insurance regulator but not deep ties to the members of Congress who will decide the fate of the president’s health care proposals.” The paper quotes Norman Ornstein of conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute as saying “it’s a tough job for anybody to do right now,” but especially for a Washington outsider. “It’s like suddenly being inserted as quarterback in the second quarter of the Super Bowl, where you know the coach, you know the game, but you haven’t played with this team and you don’t know all the plays.”
On the other hand, CNNPolitics.com notes that Sebelius has “experience working with both Democrats and Republicans in her home state, which could be an asset to President Obama as he embarks on an effort at bipartisanship in reforming health care.”
The experience, however, may have been sobering, according to The New York Times, which pointed out that her “efforts to forge bipartisan consensus have rarely succeeded. She recently observed that the greatest frustration of her six years in office had been her inability to persuade lawmakers to raise tobacco taxes for a modest expansion of government health coverage.”
Meanwhile, The Washington Post writes that Sebelius, who was raised as a Roman Catholic in Ohio, has “endured fierce and often personal criticism from anti-abortion activists largely because she vetoed a bill that would have required doctors who perform late-term abortions to report a reason for the procedure.” The paper adds that, after the veto, the archbishop of Kansas City asked her to stop taking Communion. Underscoring the point, FoxNews.com reports how anti-abortion activists plan to fight her nomination.
Beyond the mainstream, blogs are reacting with passion. Catholic Fire writes that it would “certainly be good to get her out of Kansas.” On the other end of the spectrum, Women’s Voices for Change is thrilled that Sebelius was chosen for HHS and calls her a “Mistress of the Universe,” who is a tough administrator, deeply bipartisan and determined to get things right, even when faced with unpopular choices.
- More news coverage of Sebelius’ nomination
- White House blog post about Sebelius’ nomination
- Sebelius’ official biography