Sebelius doesn’t rule out Cabinet job
Governor, rumored to be back in running for administration post, spars with GOP
Topeka The departure of Tom Daschle as President Barack Obama’s nominee for secretary of health and human services on Tuesday fueled speculation that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius may be picked for the job.
National media covering Daschle’s withdrawal from consideration because of tax problems immediately put Sebelius on a short list of possible replacements.
Asked to respond to the reports, Sebelius’ office put out the following statement:
“Today’s news about Senator Daschle is unfortunate. Governor Sebelius has enormous respect for Tom Daschle, his talents and his many years of service to our country.
“Governor Sebelius is focused on working through the challenges facing our state and continues to believe reforming health care is absolutely vital to our economic recovery.
“She will continue to do what she can to help President Obama fix our economy, improve our health care system and get America back on track.”
The statement is different from her announcement in December when Sebelius said she didn’t want to be considered for a Cabinet position. At that time, Sebelius said she made the decision because of the worsening budget problems facing Kansas.
Those budget problems haven’t gotten any better. State revenues continue to fall, and Sebelius and Republican legislative leaders have been at odds over how to close a $186 million budget gap that could grow to $1 billion by the start of the next fiscal year July 1.
Questions about a possible job in the Obama administration came up again last month when New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew as Obama’s choice for commerce secretary. At that time, Sebelius said she stood by her decision to stay in Kansas.
But secretary of HHS would be more in Sebelius’ range. Prior to her election as governor in 2002, she served eight years as state insurance commissioner where she worked on many health care issues.
Sebelius was also reportedly among the top group considered by Obama to be his running mate. Obama eventually picked Joe Biden.
Sebelius, meanwhile, continued sparring with the Republican-dominated Legislature in Topeka.
On Monday, she criticized House Republican leaders, saying they are delaying debate on proposed budget cuts.
“Every delay in this process increases the uncertainty for the Kansans affected by these budget proposals,” said Sebelius, a Democrat.
Last week, the Senate approved a bipartisan approach to mending the current year’s budget, while Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee on Friday approved a measure that seeks deeper cuts to public schools.
On Monday, House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, responded to Sebelius’ criticism, saying the House is acting quickly, adding that the Appropriations Committee put together its bill in one day.
“The House took one day to put their bill out after it came over from the Senate. I don’t know how you can do any better than what the House has done,” O’Neal said.
House rules require a 48-hour period from the time the bill is printed before it can be debated, he said.
He said he didn’t order the bill to be printed over the weekend to save on overtime.
O’Neal also repeated his assertion that Sebelius should have enacted across-the-board budget cuts before the Legislature started its session Jan. 12.
Sebelius has instead favored more targeted budget cuts, saying that the deeper across-the-board cuts sought by Republican legislative leaders would have been harmful to necessary programs.
She said the continued legislative deliberations on the current fiscal year budget “stalls work on the more difficult task that lies ahead, dealing with the 2010 budget.”