President Introduces Kansas Governor as HHS Secretary

By: 13 News
By: 13 News

Calling her a woman of intellect and integrity, President Barack Obama Monday welcomed Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to Washington.

The President named Sebelius as his nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary. In doing so, he is trusting Sebelius to lead an overhaul of our nation's health care system and he says our economic future depends on its success.

Two prominent Kansas republicans - former Senator Bob Dole and current Senator Pat Roberts - embraced the Democratic Governor and President, standing alongside them on the podium for the announcement. It's that bipartisan spirit that convinced Mr. Obama that Sebelius is the person to lead a reform of the country's health care system.

Mr. Obama cited Sebelius time as Governor with a Republican-controlled legislature, saying on issues from energy and education to health care and jobs, she bridged the gap to get things done for the people of Kansas.

Getting it done on a national stage is a tall order. Mr. Obama pointed out people are losing their jobs, and their health insurance along with them; other families are losing their homes to medical bills.

"This isn't a partisan challenge - it's an American challenge," Sebelius said. "It's one we can't afford to ignore."

Sebelius said she shared the President's view that fixing the economy can't without fixing health care. She acknowledged the work won't be easy, "but bringing about real change rarely is.''

The potential move to cabinet secretary caps a political career for the daughter of former ohio governor John Gilligan that began with her election to the Kansas House of Representatives in 1987. After four terms there, she took office as Kansas Insurance Commisisoner in 1995, serving two terms before becoming Governor in 2003.

Sebelius took herself out of the running for a cabinet spot in December, citing the state's tough budget situation. Monday, she said leaving is a tough decision, but cited the President's encouragement. She says he reminded her that she can serve the nation and Kansas at the same time.

Sebelius is the President's second nominee for the position. His first choice, former Sen. Tom Daschle, withdrew amid tax problems.

Sebelius' nomination must be confirmed by the Senate.

Sebelius is seen as a steady hand, an experienced public official who knows how to work across political lines. As a former state insurance commissioner, she is unfazed by the complexities of health care and insurance issues.

The health insurance industry and consumer groups have responded
favorably to Sebelius' nomination.

The feeling isn't unanimous, however. Some anti-abortion views are vowing to protest Sebelius' nomination, citing her pro-choice views.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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