Key senators have signaled their support for the nomination of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to the top healthcare post, though some Republican members warned that they would fight many of the provisions outlined in the White House's overall healthcare reform blueprint.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) called President Barack Obamas choice for HHS secretary good news, adding that Sebelius would bring solid experience to the position. Obama will officially announce the nomination at a 1 p.m. ET news conference at the White House today.
Sebelius picked up the support of her own states conservative voices, Republican Sens. Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback, who in a joint statement said they look forward to working with the governor.
We know we can have a strong dialogue with (her) on issues weve been working on, including fighting Medicare reimbursement cuts to home healthcare providers and ensuring the hundreds of billions of healthcare dollars are wisely spent, the senators said in a written statement.
But they also highlighted a number of differences that they have with the administration, especially on the creation of a $634 billion reserve fund that was outlined in the White House budget and the called-for creation of a new public health insurance option.
Roberts, a member of the Senate Finance Committee as well as the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, sparred last week with Baucus over making the health reform process more inclusive to the Republican minority. He co-chairs the Senate Rural Health Caucus. Sebelius, 60, was an early Obama supporter who worked for Obamas presidential bid. She must be confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The HHS position is seen by many as one of the most important posts given the strong push from Washington to change how healthcare is delivered and paid for.
Baucus committee holds sway over that nomination and his endorsement of Sebelius could go a long way in the process. The senator, who has emerged as a key player on Capitol Hill in the healthcare movement, would need to work closely with any HHS secretary in what is expected to be a tough legislative push for reform this year.
Passing comprehensive healthcare reform is an absolute imperative this year, and as a former insurance commissioner Gov. Sebelius really gets what needs to be done, Baucus said in a written statement. Added to that, she's accustomed to working together with Democrats and Republicans to get things accomplished.