HHS Inspector General Janet Rehnquist will step down from the position she's held for the past 19 months, Senate Finance Committee sources confirmed late this afternoon. Rehnquist, 45, daughter of U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, was appointed to the powerful regulatory post months after the Supreme Court, with her father in the majority, handed President Bush the Florida election. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and the committee's former chairman, Max Baucus (D-Mont.), have been pushing for Rehnquist's resignation, alleging that she politicized the watchdog agency and reduced its effectiveness. Grassley castigated Rehnquist for making at least 15 senior personnel changes since her August 2001 confirmation and alleged that she may have delayed a Florida pension fund audit to avoid embarrassing Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother.
At the request of Grassley and Baucus, the General Accounting Office has been reviewing the effectiveness of the inspector general's office, and the senators have been briefed on the upcoming GAO report, sources said. Rehnquist could not be reached for comment for this report; however, earlier today in an interview with Modern Healthcare on a separate matter Rehnquist and her assistant Kimberly Brandt denied that she planned to step down. Telephone calls to the White House news office were not returned. Sources at Rehnquist's office and the offices of HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Tom Scully said they were unaware of her resignation. -- by Mark Taylor