Coming up next: HHS confirmation hearings
posted at 8:41 am on April 11, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
The resignation of Kathleen Sebelius from her position as HHS Secretary comes as no shock to anyone paying attention to the incompetence and lack of accountability from the only project that mattered to her employment. The shock is that it took as long as it did to get rid of Sebelius, who turned the easiest part of the ObamaCare project — the web portal — into such a disaster area that it managed to momentarily distract from the enormous price increases that the rest of the law has created. By the end, even though the White House spent several days bragging about its highly-suspect enrollment numbers through the exchanges, Barack Obama couldn’t even bother to mention the woman he’d left in charge of the project after its incompetent launch.
Now Sebelius has resigned, and OMB Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell will take her place. While some claimed that this change came because “ObamaCare won,” the Washington Post report makes it very clear that the opposite was true:
A health policy specialist close to the White House said that Obama’s staff had long preferred to be “running the show” on the health-care law but that Sebelius and her aides were increasingly “cut out of the process” after the launch of HealthCare.gov escalated into a political disaster for the president.
Other senior administration officials played central roles in helping repair the Web site and steer the law’s implementation after the rollout. Jeffrey D. Zients, a former OMB official who directs the National Economic Council, rejoined the administration to spearhead a team of federal employees and contractors who worked to repair HealthCare.gov. Meanwhile, Phil Schiliro, who served as Obama’s chief legislative liaison during his first term, returned in December to oversee the policy side of the law.
Sebelius was not part of the group of White House aides who recently told Obama in the Oval Office that health-care enrollment had surpassed 7 million. While she sat in the front row as the president told the nation on April 1 about the law’s success, he did not mention her in his speech.
Burwell got an easy ride from the Senate in her confirmation as OMB Director, with a 96-0 vote for confirmation last year. But that was just six months after Barack Obama’s re-election, and well before any hint of the disaster to come at HHS. This time around, Burwell herself may get an easy confirmation vote in the end, but the hearings will be anything but smooth for the Obama administration:
Buckle up and get your gavels ready — here comes another round of contentious, high-profile hearings.
And they’re coming just in time for campaign season, ahead of what was already going to be a difficult summer of people getting acclimated to their new plans and new insurance rates being announced.
Democrats will be hoping Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s resignation — kept tightly under wraps since the one-on-one meeting in early March when she gave Obama the news — will finally force the president closer to the offensive, aggressive position on Obamacare that they’d been begging for.
Er … sure. The timing couldn’t be worse, which is one reason why Politico reports later in the story that the White House never bothered to tell senior Democratic leadership in the Senate about Sebelius’ resignation. The last thing Democrats wanted in the summer of 2014 was a high-profile confirmation hearing that will focus on all of the failures of ObamaCare, with the news media forced to follow it. Democrats want to talk about income inequality, Equal Pay Day, Paul Ryan’s budget, the weather — anything but ObamaCare, especially this summer. That’s when the 2015 premium prices will start coming out, and amplify the unhappiness already being felt in the electorate over ObamaCare.
The time to dump Sebelius was in November, when the scope of her incompetence became clear. That would have allowed Obama to look tough, gain him some extra political breathing room for fixes, and most importantly would have moved up confirmation hearings to keep them nearly a year away from the midterms. According to the Post’s report, the White House all but cut Sebelius out of the management of the system anyway, so why keep her on board at all? Forcing Sebelius out now not only steps all over their message of “victory,” but also moves the confirmation hearings and the reamplified debate over ObamaCare within a few months of the midterms — giving Republicans the perfect platform to frame the elections and trump the weak economic agenda of Democrats.
Apparently, incompetence in this administration isn’t limited to HHS. Or State. Or Justice. Or …