It's Sebelius For Hhs

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THE TREATMENT FEBRUARY 27, 2009

It's Sebelius For Hhs

Administration officials say that President Obama will nominate Kathleen Sebelius to be his Secretary of Health and Human Services.

During her years as insurance commissioner and then the governor of Kansas, Sebelius proved herself an effective
manager of govenrment agencies, an effective watchdog over the insurance industry, and a reliable defender of safety net programs for the poor. She is popular with liberal health care advocates, who have been touting her candidacy ever since Tom Daschle, Obama's original appointee, withdrew. But Sebelius also has a good bipatisan touch, having worked closely with Republicans in her relatively conservative state.  

In short, this seems like good news. 

An announcement will be made Monday. And it can't come a moment too soon. The lack of permanent leadership at HHS since Daschle's withdrawal has become conspicuous--and worrisome. The Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, Food
and Drug Administration--all of these agencies are part of HHS. And, to varying degrees, they can all use some attention after eight years of Bush Administration neglect. But it's been difficult to make progress on that without a Secretary.

The more complicated question, going forward, is what happens to the other post Daschle occupied, as head of the Office of Health Reform at the White House. As first reported in Politco, the most likely candidate for the post is Nancy Ann DeParle, a former Clinton administration official now working in the financial sector. (Jeanne Lambrew, Daschle's former deputy at the White House, is working out of HHS now, at least temporarily.) Of course, it's still possible Obama will scrap the White House health reform office altogether, since it was created in no small part to build an infrastructure around Daschle.

--Jonathan Cohn 

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