The wait may soon be over for US Food and Drug Administration employees wondering who their new boss will be. President Obama is expected to introduce Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas today as his new nominee for secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Sebelius served two tenures as her state’s insurance commissioner and proposed various initiatives to improve and protect Kansans’ health. A Democrat, she was twice elected in a largely Republican state, and has established a reputation for bipartisanship. These points should all work in the governor’s favor.
Yet Sebelius could face problems during her confirmation hearings because of her support for abortion rights. Last year, Sebelius vetoed a state law regulating abortion because she believed it would endanger women’s lives by permitting unconstitutional interference with a woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy. Her veto raised the ire of prolife organizations.
If Sebelius is confirmed, her qualifications might not ensure that her term as secretary is productive. As The New York Times noted, Sebelius has struggled to find common ground with Republicans on healthcare issues, despite her bipartisanship. Republican lawmakers stymied her attempts to institute universal healthcare and to raise cigarette taxes to subsidize medical treatment for the poor.
Sebelius seems a capable candidate for secretary of HHS. Yet the success of her confirmation hearings and her possible tenure as secretary will depend nearly as much on others’ attitudes as they do on her abilities.