Barack Obama, the onetime Democratic junior senator from Illinois who made healthcare reform a cornerstone of his race for the White House, officially took office today. He was sworn in as the nation's 44th president by Chief Justice John Roberts.
In a speech that focused largely on moving away from partisan politics as a means to steer the country to a more fiscally sound path, Obama touched on healthcare reform as one way to do so.
We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology's wonders to raise healthcare's quality and lower its costs, Obama said, speaking in front of hundreds of thousands of people on the National Mall in Washington and tens of millions more who watched on television.
The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it workswhether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified, Obama said. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.
HHS and the CMS also experienced turnover today. Mike Leavitt, whose tenure as HHS secretary officially ended at noon ET, will temporarily be replaced by HHS Assistant Secretary Charlie Johnson. CMS Chief Operating Officer Charlene Frizzera will take over for outgoing acting CMS Administrator Kerry Weems.
Meanwhile, Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) were taken from an inauguration luncheon for Obama after falling ill, according to the Associated Press. Kennedy, a strong proponent of healthcare reform, has been battling a brain tumor. (For a longer version of this story, please click here.) -- Matthew DoBias