President Obama Officially Nominates Budget Chief as Next HHS Secretary

Susan Walsh/AP

President Obama took another health care victory lap Friday while announcing the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Obama praised Sebelius in a Rose Garden address, as he formally nominated budget chief Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be the next HHS secretary.

Sebelius led HHS through the implementation of the president's signature health law, and faced tough criticism after the online portal to sign up for the new health plans struggled to get off the ground last fall.

But the atmosphere Friday was celebratory of Sebelius's time in office, and the president touted her success in turning around and getting 7.5 million people signed up for coverage.

"Yes, we lost the first quarter of the open enrollment period because of the problems with—and they were problems. But under Kathleen's leadership, her team and HHS turned the corner.… The final score speaks for itself," Obama said.

Sebelius said she was proud of the "tremendous progress" the department has made despite the legal and legislative battles the law has faced over the past four years.

"I got to be a leader of HHS during these most historic times," Sebelius said. "We are on the front lines of a long overdue national change, fixing a broken health system.

"I knew it wouldn't be easy. There's a reason that no earlier president was successful in passing health reform."

Burwell is inheriting the department as challenges remain heading into the law's second year. Some consumers are still trying to get signed up, and isn't out of the red, with some repairs remaining.

The White House has expressed confidence in Burwell as a manager and leader to take the helm during the health law's next phase. Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said in an interview with The New York Times that the president selected Burwell because she is "a proven manager and relentless implementer." Burwell has served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget for a year.

Sebelius is expected to remain with the department during the transition period. Burwell must be confirmed by a majority vote in the Senate, which departs today for spring recess and is not scheduled to return until April 28.

It's unclear whether Burwell will face strong opposition from Republicans, who have had issues with several other nominees this year.

But Burwell sailed through the Senate last year on a 96-0 vote to become head of OMB, and she has already received the support of some conservative senators, such as  Republican John McCain of Arizona, who tweeted his congratulations following reports late Thursday that she was the president's next pick.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.