HHS Secretary nominee Governor of Kansas Kathleen Sebelius is still standing after being grilled by the Senate Finance Committee during a Thursday nomination hearing.
While the committee queried Sebelius on various public health policy topics, it did not put her nomination to a vote, meaning Sebelius and the Obama administration will have to wait at least until after the two-week congressional recess, and possibly longer.
President Obama nominated Sebelius as his Secretary of Health and Human Services in early March, after former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination in late February.
The key policy topic discussed in the hearing, with committee chair Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) forcing the issue, was whether or not Sebelius agreed that all Americans of all ages should hold health insurance as part of some form of universal healthcare system.
“There may be variations about how best to reach the goal most effectively, most cost effectively, most efficiently, with the best health outcomes of insuring every American,” replied Sebelius, who will be a key player in the Obama’s aggressive healthcare reform agenda. “And I think [President Obama is] open to all of those proposals. I know the president is totally committed to that proposal, that every American should have health insurance.”
However, the biggest news related to Sebelius’s nomination this week came on Tuesday, when the nominee announced that she and her husband had repaid nearly $8,0000 in back taxes and interest penalties after discovering “unintentional errors” related to deductions for charitable donations, mortgage interest and business expenses. That said, no questions regarding Sebelius’s back taxes were raised during the Senate Finance Committee hearing.
Sebelius’s back tax announcement came as a bit of a shock given that Daschle withdrew his nomination in February after questions arose in regard to his initial failure to pay more than $128,000 in back income. So far, the Obama administration has had three heavyweight nominees drop out due to previous tax issues.
For now, Sebelius returns to Kansas for the duration of the recess.