Obama Taps Sebelius for Health Spot

Posted February 28, 2009 at 11:14pm

After failing to put Tom Daschle in the driver’s seat on health care, President Barack Obama went deep into a red state to tap Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) to run the Health and Human Services Department.

Obama is expected to formally introduce Sebelius on Monday, according to multiple news reports.

Sebelius will not have the broad portfolio planned for Daschle before the former Senate Majority Leader was forced to withdraw his nomination to be HHS secretary. The New York Times reported the president will name someone else to be the White House coordinator of health policy.

Daschle was to be overall health policy czar with command of an office in the White House in addition to his digs at HHS.

Sebelius was viewed as the Democrats’ strongest contender for the seat being vacated in 2010 by GOP Sen. Sam Brownback (R). Because she is term-limited, Sebelius would not be allowed to run for re-election as governor 2010.

GOP Reps. Todd Tiahrt and Jerry Moran have already entered the Senate race, but Sebelius would have begun the contest as a strong favorite to flip the seat into the Democratic column. Brownback is a likely contender for governor.

Sebelius, if confirmed, will now step onto center stage as a lead player as Obama attempts to enact a historic overhaul of the health care system.