It’s official, Kathleen Sebelius has quit, and President Obama has now named Sylvia Mathews Burwell as her successor. Essentially, Sebelius has taken one for the team by deciding to jump on the ACA grenade, allowing the President to give Obamacare a quick pre-election makeover. The announcement came Friday morning as Obama addressed both the resignation of Sebelius, former Secretary of HHS, and his decision to nominate budget director Burwell to take the reigns.
The resignation and change of leadership does not come as a total surprise. Word that Sebelius, who was largely blamed for the problems encountered with Obamacare, was set to resign was reported long before the news was official. The official announcements comes less than a month after the close of the enrollment deadline for the President’s Healthcare reform bill, the ACA. With the new shuffling taking place, there will be a new face, and with that democrats hope a new image associated with the landmark legislation.
The Sebelius departure comes at an interesting time. In a fast approaching midterm election, democrats are somewhat wary about what potential blowback Obamacare will have earned them at the polls. Even though enrollment numbers were seen as a win by the administration, the trouble and hitches during the rollout and the general backlash by non-supporters of the bill may have an effect in the upcoming elections. The change of face at the top of HHS may have a mitigating effect on any potential political damage, however that won’t be certain until after the elections have come and gone.
Sebelius had reportedly announced her resignation to President Obama in early March, though the official announcement would take some weeks to be made. The former HHS secretary reportedly believed that the enrollment rollout would go smoothly, and that after the enrollment closed it would be a good time to bring in a new leader to take the reigns of the department of HHS. The entire changing of the guard, after a somewhat botched rollout, appears to be Sebelius deciding to jump on the ACA grenade allowing the boss to give Obamacare a little pre-election makeover.
There were reported to be some worried about finding a suitable replacement for the former HHS secretary. Suitable in the sense that the new leader would need to win significant support in confirmation to be able to sail the stormy seas that health care reform has had to deal with. Budget director Burwell however had received overwhelming support nearly a year ago, gaining a 96-0 vote in her favor.
With the change in leadership officially announced, there will be a new face associated with the ACA moving forward. Democrats, along with President Obama are hoping that this will be enough to salvage any bad political will that may be festering from the healthcare issue. As election time fast approaches, democrats hope that the leadership change may signal smoother sailing for the President and his party.
Sebelius had been the chief of HHS since 2009, but the problems associated with the ACA rollout appear to have cut her leadership role a bit short. Although it has not been officially stated, reports circulated which cited that the administration placed a large amount of blame for poor website performance along with other glitches, on Sebelius’ shoulders. Nearly amonth ago, the former HHS secretary decided that once the rollout was complete it would be time for her to turn over the reigns.
As of now, it’s official, Kathleen Sebelius has resigned, jumping on proverbial the ACA grenade and allowing the Pres to give Obamacare a quick last minute pre-election makeover. Only time will tell if the “HHS shuffle” is enough to placate the public and dissipate any potentially harmful political-will associated with the ACA and its rollout.
By Daniel Worku
Chicago Sun Times