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 HealthCare.gov 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 HealthCare.gov—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 HealthCare.gov 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.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

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

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

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