Senators Praise Sebelius; Confirmation Hearings Not Yet Scheduled

Posted March 2, 2009 at 11:52am

While Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) is expected to coast through a smooth confirmation process as Health and Human Services secretary, both Senate committees she is expected to testify before are holding off on announcing hearings until background vetting has been completed.

President Barack Obama decided on Sebelius after his first HHS pick, former Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), withdrew from consideration. Sebelius will testify before two Senate panels: Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and Finance.

Because the Finance Committee, which has voting power over the nomination, requires a one-week public notice for confirmation hearings, Sebelius won’t likely appear before the panel until next week at the earliest.

“We’ll go through our regular vetting process for nominees and announce a hearing when that’s complete,— Finance Committee spokeswoman Carol Guthrie said.

The cautious tone may have something to do with what transpired during Daschle’s then-confirmation process. Daschle seemed poised for quick Senate approval until it was revealed that he repaid $128,000 in back taxes.

Sebelius, a two-term governor and former insurance commissioner in the Jayhawk State, has so far been well-received on Capitol Hill. In a joint statement, Kansas’ two Republicans Sens. Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback praised the governor, who “will be a voice for Kansas and rural America at the Department.—

“We know we can have a strong dialogue with Governor Sebelius on issues we’ve been working on including fighting Medicare reimbursement cuts to home health care providers and ensuring the hundreds of billions of health care dollars in the stimulus are wisely spent,— said the Senators, who endorsed the nomination.

Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also lauded Sebelius’ heartland roots.

“She’ll bring that experience and some Midwestern common sense to running the many programs the department manages,— Grassley said.