Florida Republicans Say Good Riddance, Kathleen Sebelius
Around the State
On Friday, President Barack Obama announced that he was accepting the resignation of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, leading Florida Republicans to fire away at one of the principal architects of the administration’s federal health-care law.
After reports emerged on Thursday that Sebelius was resigning and Obama would nominate Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to replace her, a media event at the Rose Garden was held on Friday morning.
“In my sixth year in office, I am extraordinarily grateful to have so many aides and advisers who have been there since the earliest days. But it’s still somewhat bittersweet when any of them leave for new endeavors -- even when their successor is wonderful,” Obama said. “In early March, Kathleen Sebelius, my secretary of Health and Human Services, told me she’d be moving on once the first open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act came to an end. And after five years of extraordinary service to our country -- and 7.5 million Americans who have signed up for health coverage through the exchanges -- she’s earned that right. I will miss her advice, I will miss her friendship, I will miss her wit -- but I am proud to nominate someone to succeed her who holds those same traits in abundance: Sylvia Mathews Burwell.”
Obama showcased Sebelius’ role in passing and implementing his signature health-care law.
“Kathleen has been here through the long fight to pass the Affordable Care Act,” Obama said. “She helped guide its implementation, even when it got rough. She’s got bumps, I’ve got bumps, bruises -- but we did it because we knew of all the people that we had met, all across the country, who had lost a home, had put off care, had decided to stay with the job instead of start a business because they were uncertain about their health care situation. We had met families who had seen their children suffer because of the uncertainty of health care. And we were committed to get this done. And that’s what we’ve done, and that’s what Kathleen has done.”
But Obama also acknowledged the problems Sebelius faced, including the glitches with the health-care law’s website.
“Yes, we lost the first quarter of open enrollment period with the problems with HealthCare.gov -- and they were problems,” Obama said. But under Kathleen’s leadership, her team at HHS turned the corner, got it fixed, got the job done, and the final score speaks for itself: There are 7.5 million people across the country that have the security of health insurance, most of them for the very first time. And that's because of the woman standing next to me here today. And we are proud of her for that. That's an historic accomplishment.”
Sebelius, who served as governor of Kansas, said serving in the Obama Cabinet was “the opportunity of a lifetime” as she tried to enact the health-care law.
“I’ve had an additional amazing opportunity -- no one has ever had this before -- I got to be a leader of HHS during these most historic times,” Sebelius said. “We are on the front lines of a long-overdue national change -- fixing a broken health system. Now, this is the most meaningful work I’ve ever been a part of. In fact, it’s been the cause of my life. And I knew it wouldn’t be easy. There’s a reason that no earlier president was successful in passing health reform, despite decades of attempts.
“But throughout the legislative battles, the Supreme Court challenge, a contentious re-election and years of votes to turn back the clock, we are making progress, tremendous progress,” Sebelius insisted. “And critics and supporters alike are benefiting from this law. My professional work as a legislator and insurance commissioner and a governor has been tremendously helpful in navigating the policy and politics of this historic change.
“The Affordable Care Act is the most significant social change in this country in that 50-year period of time,” Sebelius added. “So I am so grateful to have had this opportunity. I appreciate all of the effort and support. I thank my Cabinet colleagues who are here on the front row. And not only are they here today on the front row, but they’ve been part of an all-hands-on-deck effort making sure that 7.5 million people were able to sign up for affordable health care.”
As Sebelius exited the Cabinet, Republicans from the Sunshine State took aim at her. Gov. Rick Scott said it was about time for Sebelius to leave her position. After working in the private sector, including leading hospital management companies, Scott rose to political prominence in 2009 and 2010 by leading Conservatives for Patients’ Rights (CPR) to oppose Obama’s health-care law.
“The resignation of Secretary Sebelius is long overdue,” Scott said on Friday. “She was complicit with the president in selling falsehoods to the American people – namely that under Obamacare everyone could keep their current health-care plan, no one would lose their doctors, and that premiums would go down an average of $2,500 per family. All of these pledges have now been proven to be false. Her numerous trips to the Sunshine State were nothing more than PR tours."
Former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., a favorite of the tea party, insisted Sebelius was resigning because the health-care law is increasingly becoming unpopular. West compared it to then-U.S. Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld leaving President George W. Bush’s administration as the Iraq war grew unpopular. Despite Sebelius leaving, West insisted voters will turn against Democrats across the nation in November due to the health-care law. While he is not running, West is supporting conservative Republicans through the Allen West Guardian Fund PAC.
“The resignation of Kathleen Sebelius is like the iceberg that sank the Titanic,” West insisted on Friday. “It is just a visible tip on the surface. The true danger lies below, and the SS Obama is taking on water.”
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.