The Senate is expected to confirm Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius today as the nations top-ranking healthcare official, a move that has been much delayed though seldom in doubt.
Eight hours have been set aside for debate, but a vote could come sooner if members agree, a Senate aide said.
During a briefing, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that other healthcare officials would be ready to fall into place after she is confirmed. The comment was in answer to how the government so far has handled the threat of an outbreak of swine flu.
Our response is in no way hindered or hampered by not having a permanent secretary at HHS right now, Gibbs said. acting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Richard Bresser and thousands of people, both at CDC and throughout HHS, are responding to this.
There are about 19 positions under HHS that have so far gone unfilled, including that of CMS administrator and surgeon general.
Sebelius nomination hit a rough patch over tax problems and her ties with a physician who performs late-term abortions. Even so, key Democrats and a handful of Republicans continued to back the popular governor.
The Senate Finance Committee voted 15-8 last week to move her nomination to the full Senate.