WASHINGTON, April 10, 2014 – Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Director of OMB, is President Obama’s choice to replace embattled Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who is retiring after her five-year roller coaster term. Many Republicans have been calling for her resignation following the disastrous rollout of Obamacare.
Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff said that Sebelius has been in conversation with the president regarding her future with the administration. He said that rising Obamacare enrollment numbers meant that it might be a good time to change leadership of Health and Human Services to an individual who is not “the target of political ire.”
“What was clear is that she thought that it was time to transition the leadership to somebody else,” he said. “She’s made clear in other comments publicly that she recognizes that she takes a lot of the incoming. She does hope — all of us hope — that we can get beyond the partisan sniping.”
White House officials say that the 65-year-old Sebelius resigned; she was not forced out. However, despite previous public declarations of support, the White House has been making their frustrations over Obamacare known. They are concerned that the failed rollout will historically damage the president’s signature legislation even as they are now reaching enrollment goals.
Sebelius is being lauded by the White House as a “fierce advocate” for the Affordable Care Act. McDonough said, “She’s fearless in her defense of this idea at the heart of the Affordable Care Act. The president has commented to me countless times how much he admires that.”
A precursor to the announcement was Sebelius’ absence from Obama’s triumphant Rose Garden press conference last week. Sebelius’ career prior to her appointment is remarkable. One of the five best governors in the country, according to Time Magazine, she was considered as a 2008 running mate for Obama. Sebelius, along with Hillary Clinton, has been one of the highest profile women in the Democratic party.
“The president wants to make sure we have a proven manager and relentless implementer in the job over there, which is why he is going to nominate Sylvia,” said McDonough.
Republicans have long called for Sebelius’ head. They ridiculed her for the rollout of Obamacare even as the president defended her. Obama said during an NBC interview that she “doesn’t write code; yeah, she wasn’t our I.T. person.”
Sebelius has said that she hopes her departure will allow for a reduction of tensions in Washington. “If I could take something along with me,” she said, it would be “all the animosity. If that could just leave with me, and we could get to a new chapter, that would be terrific.”
Sebelius’ replacement is expected to be announced tomorrow, a day that the administration often uses to “take out the trash” and make announcements they want swept under the rug of the weekend. Other Friday resignation announcements include Energy Secretary Steven Chu (February 1, 2013), Desiree Rogers, CIA director David Petraeus (November 9, 2012), White House social secretary (Friday February 26, 2010), Van Jones, environmental advisor (September 25, 2009), White House Counsel Greg Craig (November 13, 2009), and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (October 2, 2009).
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“It’s a time-honored practice where the president’s trying to talk about what he wants to talk about and push the subjects that maybe he doesn’t want to talk as much about into a time when people aren’t paying as much attention,” Dee Dee Myers, press secretary during Clinton’s first two years in office and a consultant for The West Wing “trash day” episode told USA Today.
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