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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The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has released its score of the House-passed American Health Care Act, which would replace Obamacare. According to the CBO, the bill would reduce the deficit by $119 billion by 2026, while leaving 14 million more Americans uninsured in 2018 than under current law, a number swelling to 23 million by 2026. Further, insurance premiums would balloon 20 percent in 2018 and five percent in 2019 before the waiver provision in the legislation would kick in. The provision allows states to apply for waivers and permit insurers to offer skimpier plans, which would likely entice younger and healthier individuals to buy health insurance while potentially pricing older and less healthy Americans out of insurance plans. House Republicans approved this bill in late April without waiting for the CBO score.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing that President Donald Trump's budget is literal more than recycling bin material. "The budget proposed by the president doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of passing," Graham said. Graham had previously opposed the budget over its nearly 30 percent cut to the budget of the State Department. The budget slashes spending on domestic priorities while increasing military spending.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that he doesn't yet know the formula towards gaining passage of an Obamacare replacement in the Senate. "I don't know how we get to 50 (votes) at the moment. But that's the goal," McConnell said. The House passed an Obamacare replacement bill which has been widely seen as dead on arrival in the Senate, and McConnell has put together a working group of Republican Senators working towards creating health care legislation which could gain the support of at least 50 Senators.
The transcript of a phone call between Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was leaked and it shows Trump referring to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as a "madman with nuclear weapons" and praising Duterte, saying he was doing an "unbelievable job on the drug problem." For context, Duterte has presided over a vicious and genocidal campaign of extrajudicial killings within his country which has led to the murder of thousands of expected drug dealers and users. Trump also told Duerte to take care of himself and promised that the U.S. would "take care of North Korea."