Sunday, February 08, 2009

Sebelius to replace Daschle as HHS nominee?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The AP is reporting that Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is "near the top" of the list to be Obama's new nominee for HHS secretary. (The source is, as you might expect, a "senior administration official," which means anyone from an insider close to the president all the way down to some mid-level leaker with a personal agenda. I suspect that this is some serious name-floating, though.)

Which is very good news. As my go-to health-care expert Jonathan Cohn of TNR explains, Sebelius "has both the right experience and the right instincts." More: "People marvel about her managerial abilities and there's no question about having the relevant experience. She was the state insurance commissioner before she became governor; over the years, she's fought to stamp out fraudulent carriers, block dangerous industry mergers, and overcome lawmakers opposed to expansions of government health insurance for kids. She's well-known and well-liked by the health care advocacy community. And while she's not steeped in the ways of Washington, she'd have plenty of advisors to help -- not to mention a strong relationship with Obama, based in part on her bipartisan touch." (Howard Dean would be an excellent pick, too, but that's not going to happen.)

At the very least, she's not Bredesen, Bredesen, or Bredesen: "[Tennessee Governor Phil] Bredesen seems like a particularly poor candidate for the job. He presided over massive cuts to Tennessee's Medicaid program and, by all appearances, relished fighting with advocates for the poor more than the advocates of the cuts. He made his fortune in the for-profit health insurance industry, raising questions about the sensibility he'd bring -- to say nothing of the political message he'd send."

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  • A bit of a personal note here: Kathleen Sebelius is the daughter of John J. Gilligan, the former Democratic governor of Ohio (1971-1975). I worked on Mr. Gilligan's election campaign in 1970 when I was a senior in high school, and, coincidentally, the Gilligans have a summer place not far from ours in northern Michigan. I used to hang out with the Gilligan kids. Mr. Gilligan spent a lot of years in D.C. before and after his term, so I'm pretty sure Gov. Sebelius knows how D.C. works and -- like you said -- has plenty of connections there.

    By Blogger Mustang Bobby, at 5:14 PM  

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