Kathleen Sebelius

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Kathleen Sebelius
Kathleen Sebelius official portrait.jpg
21st United States Secretary of Health and Human Services
In office
April 28, 2009 – June 9, 2014
President Barack Obama
Deputy Bill Corr
Preceded by Mike Leavitt
Succeeded by Sylvia Mathews Burwell
44th Governor of Kansas
In office
January 13, 2003 – April 28, 2009
Lieutenant John Moore
Mark Parkinson
Preceded by Bill Graves
Succeeded by Mark Parkinson
23rd Insurance Commissioner of Kansas
In office
January 9, 1995 – January 13, 2003
Governor Bill Graves
Preceded by Ronald Todd
Succeeded by Sandy Praeger
Personal details
Born Kathleen Gilligan
(1948-05-15) May 15, 1948 (age 66)
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Gary Sebelius
Alma mater Trinity Washington University
University of Kansas, Lawrence
Religion Roman Catholicism

Kathleen Sebelius (/sɨˈbliəs/; née Gilligan; born May 15, 1948) is an American politician who served as the 21st United States Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2009[1] until 2014.[2] Previously, she was Governor of Kansas from 2003 to 2009, the second woman to hold that office. She is a member of the Democratic Party. Sebelius was the Democratic respondent to the 2008 State of the Union address[3] and chair-emerita of the Democratic Governors Association. On April 10, 2014, Sebelius announced her resignation as Secretary of Health and Human Services.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Sebelius was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of Mary Kathryn (née Dixon) and John "Jack" Gilligan.[4][5] Her father is a former Democratic Ohio Governor and thus they became the first father/daughter governor pair in the United States after her election.[6] Following passage of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, she pointed out another father-daughter connection: her father had been in the House of Representatives when Medicare was originally passed in 1965.[7] Her family was Roman Catholic, and had Irish ancestry.[8][9]

She attended the Summit Country Day School in Cincinnati and graduated from Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C. with a B.A. in political science. She later earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Kansas.[10] She moved to Kansas in 1974.

Career[edit]

Sebelius served as executive director and chief lobbyist for the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association (now Kansas Association for Justice) from 1977 to 1986.

Kansas House of Representatives (1987–1995)[edit]

She was first elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 1986. She won re-election in 1988, 1990, and 1992. She represented Topeka, Kansas.

Tenure[edit]

In the 1988 presidential election, she endorsed Gary Hart.[11]

In 1991, she ran to become House Majority Leader, but lost to State Representative Tom Sawyer of Wichita.[12][13]

She was strongly pro-choice.[14]

Committee assignments[edit]

  • Federal and State Affairs Committee (Chair)[15]

Kansas Insurance Commissioner (1995–2003)[edit]

In 1994 she left the House to run for state Insurance Commissioner and stunned political forecasters by winning – the first time a Democrat had won in more than 10 years.

She refused to take campaign contributions from the insurance industry and blocked the proposed merger of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, the state's largest health insurer, with an Indiana-based company. Sebelius's decision marked the first time the corporation had been rebuffed in its acquisition attempts.[16]

In 2001 Sebelius was named as one of Governing Magazine's Public Officials of the Year while she was serving as Kansas Insurance Commissioner.[17]

Governor of Kansas (2003–2009)[edit]

Kathleen Sebelius (second from left) with Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour (first left), United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (center), Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (fourth), and Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue (right)

2002 election[edit]

Sebelius defeated Republican Tim Shallenburger 53%-45%.[18]

First term[edit]

Throughout her first term, Sebelius built upon her popularity and in January 2006 was tied for 20th most popular governor in the country.[19]

During the 2004 election, Sebelius was named as a potential running mate for John Kerry.[20] In the aftermath of Kerry's defeat, some pundits named Sebelius as a potential candidate for the Democratic nomination for President in 2008.[21]

In November 2005, Time named Sebelius as one of the five best governors in America, praising her for eliminating a $1.1 billion debt she inherited, ferreting out waste in state government, and strongly supporting public education – all without raising taxes, although she proposed raising sales, property, and income taxes.[22] The article also praised her bipartisan approach to governing, a useful trait in a state where Republicans have usually controlled the Legislature.[23]

In February 2006, the White House Project named Sebelius one of its "8 in '08," a group of eight female politicians who could possibly run and/or be elected president in 2008.[24] She was also cited by The New York Times to be among the women most likely to become the first female President of the United States.[25]

In October 2006, the Cato Institute gave Sebelius the grade of "D" on their biennial fiscal policy report card, which measures the fiscal performance of U.S. governors based on spending and taxes. Her grade was influenced by the combination of proposed tax increases and expanded spending growth beyond population plus inflation.[26]

2006 re-election[edit]

Sebelius meets with FEMA workers in Kansas

On May 26, 2006, Sebelius formally announced her candidacy for re-election. Four days later, Mark Parkinson, former chair of the Kansas Republican Party, switched his party affiliation to Democrat; the following day Sebelius announced that Parkinson would be her running mate for Lieutenant Governor. Parkinson had previously served in the state House during 1991–1992 and the Senate during 1993–1997. Parkinson was viewed as a pro-business moderate who strongly supported public education. This was somewhat reminiscent of the fact that John Moore had also been a Republican, before switching just days prior to joining Sebelius as her running mate.[27]

She was challenged by Republican Kansas State Senator Jim Barnett. A September 1 Rasmussen poll showed Sebelius with an 11% lead over Barnett.[28] Other polls gave Sebelius as much as a 20% lead. As of 2004, 50% of Kansas voters were registered Republicans, compared to 27% as registered Democrats.[29] Sebelius, nevertheless, won re-election defeating him 57%-41%. Because of Kansas's term limits law, her second term as Governor was her last.

Second term[edit]

In February 2008, during Sebelius's second term in office, there was a report in the Wichita Eagle that the State of Kansas was suspending tax refunds and that, because of a lack of tax revenue, may not have been able to meet payroll for state employees.[30][31] Sebelius called for issuing certificates of indebtedness, moving funds from various state agency accounts into the general fund to alleviate the crisis. However, Republican leaders in the legislature did not agree with her certificate of indebtedness plan, saying the state would be unable to repay the certificates unless Sebelius issued allotments or signed a budget rescission bill that had been passed by the legislature but had not yet been delivered to her desk. The standoff ended when the budget arrived, and Sebelius agreed to sign it, although she line-item vetoed several cuts she felt were too large. The rescission bill reduced the budget by about $300 million. $7 million of the cuts came in the form of reduced educational funding.[32]

Sebelius speaks during the second day of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.

After Barack Obama's clinching of the nomination in June 2008, speculation that she would be a contender for the vice-presidential slot on the Democratic ticket continued.[33] The Washington Post listed her as the top prospect for the 2008 nomination.[34] James Carville and Bob Novak also mentioned Sebelius' name,[35][36] and Wesley Clark, also considered a potential running mate, publicly endorsed Sebelius, referring to her as "the next vice-president of the United States."[37] Speculation that the Vice Presidential nomination lay in her future was heightened by the fact that she was chosen by the Democratic Party's congressional leaders to give their party's official response to Republican President George W. Bush's 2008 State of the Union Address.[38] The next day, she endorsed Obama's campaign, one week before the Kansas caucus on Super Tuesday.[39] Obama won the caucus easily, with 74% support.[40]

Speculation on her Vice Presidential selection intensified when a report from political ad agency insider, Tribble Ad Agency, reported on its website that the Obama Campaign owned the domain name "ObamaSebelius.com" through the GoDaddy.com registration service.[41] However, just after midnight on August 23, it was reported by the Associated Press that Obama ultimately selected Joe Biden, the senior senator from Delaware, as his running mate.[42]

Sebelius was considered to be on the short list for nomination to a position in Obama's Cabinet,[43] but she officially withdrew her name from consideration on December 6, 2008.[44] Following Bill Richardson's withdrawal as Obama's nomination for Secretary of Commerce, there was media speculation that Sebelius would be chosen as the new nominee.[45][46][47][48] Through a spokesperson, Sebelius reiterated her earlier statement that she would not consider accepting a nomination to the Cabinet position.[49] Sebelius' name was again floated as a replacement for Tom Daschle, who withdrew as Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services-designate over tax issues. The governor at first did not publicly comment on whether or not she would be interested in accepting the position.[50] On February 28, 2009, the British wire agency Reuters reported that Sebelius had accepted the president's offer to become Secretary of Health and Human Services and that she would be nominated on March 2.[51]

Following Senator Sam Brownback's announcement that he would not seek re-election to the Senate, and would instead run for Governor of Kansas in the 2010 elections, Sebelius was one of several people that media outlets speculated would run for the open United States Senate seat in 2010.[52][53] However, Sebelius declined to run and maintained her post in the Obama administration.[54]

Sebelius is a former chair of the Democratic Governors Association, a popular launchpad for those with national political ambitions.[55]

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (2009–2014)[edit]

Sebelius accepting her nomination by President Barack Obama as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Nomination[edit]

On February 28, 2009, it was reported that Sebelius had accepted Obama's nomination for the position of Secretary of Health and Human Services. On March 2, 2009, Obama officially announced Governor Sebelius as his nominee.[56] At Obama's announcement, Sebelius was accompanied by two Kansas Republicans, former U.S. Senator Bob Dole and current U.S. Senator Pat Roberts. Pro-life advocates opposed the nomination and pro-life members in the Senate were most likely to be her main opposition.[57]

During the background investigation process for this position, in March 2009 she admitted to "unintentional errors" in tax returns and paid nearly $8,000 in back taxes.[58][59] She took unduly large deductions in areas that included charitable contributions, the sale of a home, and business expenses.[60][61][62][63]

Sebelius at an HHS meeting in April 2009.

In answer to questions from the Senate Finance Committee during her April 2009 confirmation hearing, Sebelius stated she received $12,450 between 1994 and 2001 from physician George Tiller, one of only 3 late term abortion providers nationwide, who was later gunned down. The Associated Press, however, reported that from 2000 to 2002 Tiller gave at least $23,000 more to a political action committee Sebelius established to raise money for Democrats while she was serving as state insurance commissioner.[64]

Sebelius was confirmed by the United States Senate by a vote of 65–31 and sworn in on April 28, 2009, amidst an outbreak of swine flu in the United States, Mexico, and numerous other countries around the world. Lieutenant Governor Parkinson was sworn in as Governor of Kansas and served the remainder of Sebelius's term.[65][66][67][68][69]

Affordable Care Act[edit]

Sebelius and Todd Park, the White House's chief technology officer

Sebelius is a staunch advocate for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. In response to website glitches, and failures, she said in October 2013 “You deserve better. I apologize. I’m accountable to you for fixing these problems and I’m committed to earning your confidence back by fixing the site.”[70] Republicans called for her resignation in response to the website problems.[71][72] In the House, fifty-five members of the House called for her resignation, while U.S. Senators Ted Cruz, Lamar Alexander and Pat Roberts all called for her resignation.[71][72] In response to the calls to resign Sebelius said: “The majority of people calling for me to resign I would say are people who I don't work for, and who do not want this program to work in the first place.”[71][72]

Sebelius came under criticism for her role in administering ObamaCare when she made comments at a Congressional hearing regarding funding. In the hearing, she was asked where a 12 billion dollar sum of money was being allotted; Medicare or ObamaCare. She responded that it was in fact going to both.[73]

In 2009 through 2011, Forbes named Sebelius the 57th, 23rd, and 13th most powerful woman in the world, respectively.[74][75][76]

Hatch Act concern[edit]

On September 13, 2012, the Office of Special Counsel charged Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius with violating the Hatch Act by making a political remark during an official government event. Sebelius's office reclassified the event from official to political and reimbursed the government's expenses.[77]

Resignation[edit]

On April 11, 2014, Sebelius announced her resignation from her position as Secretary of Health and Human Services, assumedly tentative upon the confirmation of her successor. Sylvia Mathews Burwell was nominated that same day as her successor.[78]

Political positions[edit]

Abortion[edit]

Sebelius is "staunchly pro-choice."[79] Her office stated that abortions declined 8.5% during her tenure as governor.[80] According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment statistics, the number of induced abortions in Kansas declined by 1,568, or 12.6%, from 2001 to 2007, the year of the most recently available statistics.[81] Her administration attributes the decline to health care reforms that Sebelius initiated, including "adoption incentives, extended health services for pregnant women..., sex education and... a variety of support services for families."[82] Nationally, the number of abortions declined approximately 7.6% from 2000 to 2005, the year of the most recently available and reliable U.S. statistics.[83]

Sebelius has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood and they have conducted fundraising activity on her behalf.[84] In 2003, 2005, 2006, and again in 2008, Sebelius vetoed legislation that would have limited abortions in Kansas.

On April 21, 2008, Sebelius vetoed House Substitute for Senate Bill 389, titled the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act by its sponsors. Proponents of the bill argued the legislation would strengthen late-term abortion laws and prevent so-called "coerced abortions," particularly with respect to minors. The Kansas City Star reported that HS SB 389 would have required the State of Kansas to collect patient diagnostic information providing detailed medical justification for late-term abortions, and would have also permitted litigants to sue abortion providers if they thought that a relative of theirs was planning a late-term abortion in violation of Kansas law.[85] Sebelius objected to the constitutionality, efficacy and morality of the proposed legislation. She wrote, "The United States Supreme Court decisions make clear that any law regulating abortion must contain exceptions for pregnancies which endanger the woman's life or health. However, SB 389 allows a variety of individuals to seek a court order preventing a woman from obtaining an abortion, even where it may be necessary to save her life. I am concerned that the bill is unconstitutional or even worse, endangers the lives of women." In addition, she expressed concern that the bill would "likely encourage extensive litigation" and that it "unnecessarily jeopardizes the privacy of Kansas women's confidential medical records."[82]

Sebelius is a member of the Catholic Church; however, in early March 2009, then-Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke, prefect for the Apostolic Signatura, the Holy See's highest court, declared that Sebelius should not approach the altar for Communion in the United States, and he noted that, "after pastoral admonition, she obstinately persists in serious sin".[86] Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Fred Naumann also asked that Sebelius no longer receive Holy Communion because of her position on abortion. Naumann criticized Sebelius for vetoing HS SB 389.[87] The action received mixed reviews in the Catholic press.[88][89][90]

Conservative and pro-life commentators publicly criticized Sebelius's HHS nomination because she had received donations to her campaign from George Tiller, the medical director of an abortion clinic in Wichita.[91][92] Not long after Sebelius was sworn in as HHS Secretary, on May 31, 2009, Tiller was shot through the eye and killed by Scott Roeder.[93]

Morning after pill[edit]

Despite her pro-choice view, in December 2011, Sebelius overruled the FDA's recommendation on making the "morning after pill" (Plan B One-Step) available over the counter for females under the age of 17.[94] President Obama said that the decision was Sebelius's, not his.[95]

Judge Edward R. Korman of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York struck down this restriction, calling it "frivolous" and "silly", and alleging that pure politics — not scientific evidence — was behind efforts by Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, to block easier distribution to young girls. The Obama administration, in response, lowered the age limit from 17 to 15 but decided to appeal this ruling to maintain the loosened restrictions, in a move that was widely criticized by advocates of reproductive rights.[96]

Capital punishment[edit]

Sebelius is an opponent of capital punishment.[97] During her first term, the Kansas capital punishment laws were declared unconstitutional by the Kansas Supreme Court. However, on appeal by Kansas's Attorney General Phill Kline, the ruling was again overturned and the current law reinstated by the United States Supreme Court.

Drug importation[edit]

As governor of Kansas, Sebelius adopted a state drug importation program in 2004 to help her constituents afford prescription medication.[98] The program, called I-saveRx, connected individuals with and helped them buy medication from licensed pharmacies in Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom. The program later went on to include Australia and New Zealand.[99] Due to federal laws prohibiting personal drug importation under most circumstances, the FDA intercepted some prescription orders en route to Americans who participated in I-SaveRx; while in most cases prescription imports for personal use are not seized.

Education[edit]

Sebelius at Cool Springs Elementary School in Maryland

Early in the term, Sebelius made education funding her top priority. Education funding reached a breaking point in the summer of 2005 when the Kansas Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to increase K–12 funding.[100] Sebelius offered one education funding plan early in her first term, which consisted of property, sales, and income tax increases, resulting in 2006 in the largest K–12 education funding increase in the history of the state. The three-year plan aimed to increase education funding by nearly $1 billion over three years, but did not give a funding source for the second and third years.

Environment[edit]

Sebelius chaired the Governors' Ethanol Coalition. In 2006 she requested that $200 million be allotted from the US government to support the Department of Energy Biomass and Biorefinery Systems Research and Development Program.[101] She pushed for more widespread recycling efforts across the state.[102] In addition, she vetoed bills authorizing the construction of coal-fired power plants on three separate occasions[103] saying in March 2008, "We know that greenhouse gases contribute to climate change. As an agricultural state, Kansas is particularly vulnerable. Therefore, reducing pollutants benefits our state not only in the short term — but also for generations of Kansans to come."[104] On June 2, 2008, Sebelius spoke at the American Wind Energy Association Conference, calling for greater federal support for wind energy and other renewable energy resources.[105]

As Health and Human Services Secretary, Sebelius will have a role in the development of regulations governing hydraulic fracturing. President Obama issued an executive order enabling the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to participate in an Interagency Working Group charged with helping to develop practical, economical state and federal public health and environmental standards related to natural gas production.[106]

Firearms[edit]

Sebelius and Eric Holder

Sebelius has said she supports Kansans' right to own firearms, but does not believe a broad concealed carry law would make them safer: "I don't believe allowing people to carry concealed handguns into sporting events, shopping malls, grocery stores, or the workplace would be good public policy. And to me the likelihood of exposing children to loaded handguns in their parents' purses, pockets and automobiles is simply unacceptable."[107]

Sebelius vetoed, like her Republican predecessor Bill Graves, a concealed-carry law that would have allowed citizens to carry concealed weapons after obtaining a state permit and passing an FBI background check.[108] The veto left Kansas, at the time, as one of four states without any form of a conceal-carry law.

On March 21, 2006, she vetoed Senate Bill 418, a similar concealed-carry bill. On March 25, her veto was overturned after the Kansas House of Representatives voted 91–33 to override it. This followed the Kansas Senate's 30-10 override vote, which occurred the day after her veto.[109]

On April 21, 2008, Sebelius signed Senate Bill 46 into law, which repealed a 1933 state law prohibiting civilian ownership of machine guns and other firearms restricted by the National Firearms Act of 1934, specifically permitting ownership by civilians successfully meeting the requirements of the NFA. The law was passed in part to address legal issues that could have prevented dealers from delivering firearms to law enforcement agencies in Kansas. The law took effect on July 1, 2008.[110]

LGBT Issues[edit]

Sebelius did not support an April 2005 amendment to the Kansas Constitution that made same-sex marriage in the state unconstitutional. Sebelius said she supported the existing state law outlawing same-sex marriage, viewing it as sufficient,[111] and therefore opposed the constitutional amendment. The amendment passed with 70% voter approval.

U.S. Senate campaign 2014[edit]

On April 16, 2014, the New York Times reported that Sebelius was considering running for the U.S. Senate seat for Kansas against current Republican U.S. Senator Pat Roberts.[112] If Sebelius runs for the seat and wins she would become the first woman in U.S. history to serve as governor, cabinet head, and U.S. Senator, and the second woman after Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire to ever serve as governor and U.S. Senator.[113]

Personal life[edit]

Her husband, K. Gary Sebelius,[114] is a federal magistrate judge and the son of former U.S. Representative Keith Sebelius, a Republican. They have two sons: Ned (b. 1982) and John (b. 1985).[115] She also visits her childhood and current vacation home, located in Leland, Michigan, north of Traverse City, Michigan.

An avid fan of jazz music, Sebelius as of 2009 has a 30-year unbroken streak of annually attending Jazz Fest in New Orleans.[116]

Electoral history[edit]

Kansas Gubernatorial Election 2002
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Kathleen Sebelius 435,462 52.9
Republican Tim Shallenburger 371,325 45.3
Kansas Gubernatorial Election 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Kathleen Sebelius (Incumbent) 480,532 57.8 +4.9
Republican Jim Barnett 336,583 40.5

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External links[edit]

Articles
Political offices
Preceded by
Ronald Todd
Insurance Commissioner of Kansas
1995–2003
Succeeded by
Sandy Praeger
Preceded by
Bill Graves
Governor of Kansas
2003–2009
Succeeded by
Mark Parkinson
Preceded by
Mike Leavitt
United States Secretary of Health and Human Services
2009–2014
Succeeded by
Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Party political offices
Preceded by
Tom Sawyer
Democratic nominee for Governor of Kansas
2002, 2006
Succeeded by
Tom Holland