This vote was on confirming Kathleen Sebelius to be secretary of Health and Human Services. Sebelius, the former governor of Kansas, was nominated to the post after former Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., removed himself from consideration over tax problems.
Sebelius is widely respected and received many plaudits in the Senate, even from her opponents. However, Sebelius’ pro-choice stance gave her some trouble during her confirmation, particularly regarding campaign contributions she had received from George Tiller, a doctor who performs abortions, including third-trimester abortions. (Tiller was assassinated for his work after Sebelius was confirmed.) Anti-abortion groups pressured conservative Republicans to hold up her nomination, and they did for some time, but eventually relented.
Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said Sebelius’ stance on abortion is a “drastic and fatal character flaw” and that her impending confirmation is “another signpost on the way to oblivion for the nation.”
“If you are going to be charged with the health and services that relate to health and humans in this society, that you are confused on this issue about transparency and accountability of taking the life of an unborn child is a nonstarter with me, not because I dislike Kathleen Sebelius. She is a wonderful lady. But she lacks part of the moral clarity that is required to lead this Nation in the future and to correct where we are off course on so many issues. Her ability from the start, the first day she is sworn in, will be compromised by her position on this issue. The confidence she will require of the Members of Congress who relate to this foundational principle of liberty as an inalienable right and life as an inalienable right will undermine her from the start,” Coburn said.
Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Sebelius’ experience as governor of a state whose legislature is controlled by the opposing party uniquely qualifies her to help reach across the aisle. Baucus said this will be particularly important in helping to shepherd through President Obama’s ambitious health care overhaul.
“We need a first-class Secretary and team at HHS to help get reform off the ground and to make it work. I look forward to working with Governor Sebelius to make sure our bill can be implemented,” Baucus said. “Governor Sebelius is the right person for the job. She has political experience, determination, and a bipartisan work ethic to get the job done. She has been an insurance commissioner, and she knows the nuts and bolts of the health care system. She has been a Governor, so she knows how to work with Democrats and with the Republicans; that is her inclination anyway.”
By a vote of 65-31, the Senate voted to confirm the nomination. Every Democrat present voted for the nomination. Of Republicans present, 9 voted for the nomination and 31 voted against it. The end result is that the Senate confirmed Kathleen Sebelius to be secretary of Health and Human Services.