Kathleen Sebelius is resigning as Health and Human Services secretary in the wake of the disastrous HealthCare.gov launch, a senior administration official confirmed Thursday.
President Obama will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the White House budget office, to lead HHS.
Obama had resisted earlier calls to fire someone over the HealthCare.gov debacle, saying he wanted to avoid even more upheaval as the department scrambled to repair the enrollment website.
But even though Obamacare enrollment has bounced back since the Oct. 1 launch, Obama and congressional Democrats are still feeling the political effects of the botched rollout and the haphazard policy changes the administration has made to compensate for it.
Obama accepted Sebelius’s resignation earlier this week, according to The New York Times. The Times said she approached Obama about the decision sometime last month, after the website had stabilized and enrollment had begun to turn a corner. The timing allows the White House to answer calls for accountability over the website’s initial failure while trumpeting strong enrollment numbers and giving Democrats a chance to call for changes during Burwell’s confirmation hearings.
Still, White House press secretary Jay Carney expressed confidence in Sebelius just last week, and she said in a March 31 interview with The Huffington Post that she would “absolutely” stick around through November, when the next enrollment period begins.
Getting Burwell confirmed as the new HHS secretary will be challenging, but not impossible. Republicans will surely face pressure from conservatives not to help the administration continue to implement the Affordable Care Act. But a recent change to the Senate’s rules means that Democrats can approve Burwell with just 51 votes. And she won confirmation to lead the budget office by a 96-0 vote.
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Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.