The Senate Finance Committee voted 15-8 to hand Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius the reins to an extensive effort to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system. Her nomination for HHS secretary now goes to the full Senate, which is expected to vote this week.
Two committee Republicans voted in favor the governor, who has come under fire for her ties with a late-term abortion doctor and reworked tax forms.
The split vote hints of a more challenging road ahead for President Barack Obamas aggressive effort to reshape how healthcare is delivered and paid for in the U.S. Even so, Richard Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, lauded Sebelius credentials.
Sebelius brings a bipartisan approach and wealth of experience to the very complex challenges facing healthcare in America, Umbdenstock said in an e-mail. Americas hospitals look forward to sharing ideas and solutions with Secretary-designee Sebelius and her team as we work together to reform and improve our nations healthcare system.
Sister publication Modern Healthcare named Sebelius to its 2009 list of the Top 25 Women in Healthcare.
The vote split largely among party lines, with Democrats in favor of the governor and Republicans opposed.
The two Republicans who voted in favor of Sebelius were moderate Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Kansas conservative Pat Roberts.
Roberts, a family friend of the governor, twice spoke on her behalf during confirmation hearings.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the Republican Whip, said he voted against Sebelius because of her stance on comparative-effectiveness research. In written responses to the senators questions, Kyl said that she could not guarantee tha data culled from such research would not be used to make coverage determinations.
Kyl said that such measures would result in giving the federal government a wide berth in making clinical decisionssomething its not set up to do. This should be a matter of concern to us all, he said.