Gov. Kathleen Sebelius exceptional choice

HHS to get highly capable leader, non-partisan fighter

The New York Times is reporting that President Obama intends to choose Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for secretary of Health and Human Services. Some reports suggest she is mulling a run for the Senate in 2010 and may turn the position down. We hope she takes it .

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius

We were fans of Tom Daschle, the former U. S. Senate majority leader who withdrew his nomination for the position over tax questions. We thought he had a unique set of qualifications that would allow him to shepherd health care reform through the rough waters of Congress, and thought his withdrawal was a case of “the perfect being the enemy of the good.”

But we find ourselves being enchanted by Sebelius, who easily shakes off any potential taint that might come from being  a second choice. Her qualifications, while very different from Daschle’s, are every bit as compelling.

True non-partisan. Sebelius not only talks the talk; she walks the walk on reaching across the aisle. Way across. To run for re-election, this Democrat lured the state GOP party chair to change his party affiliation and become her running mate. This was actually a “second” for Seblelius – she convinced another Republican to join her ticket during her first run.

Health care reformer. Before becoming Kansas Governor, Sebelius served eight years as the state’s elected insurance commissioner, winning high marks for her strong pro-consumer stands. A major accomplishment was blocking the state’s largest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, from merging with an out-of-state insurance company. It seems to us that many of our country’s problems have been born of the “merger mania” since the 1980s. Sometimes, less really is more.

Refreshing ethics. As commissioner, she cleansed the agency of its longtime insurance industry influence, and refused industry campaign contributions. Make sense? Of course it does, but it’s reassuring to see a public servant with the drive and courage to directly confront the industry she regulates, when the rewards for not doing so are so enticing.

Reduced abortions. Not a topic we normally like to touch on, because of the passions it inflames, but the number of abortions under Sebelius dropped at a greater rate than the national rate as a whole. While the Archbishop of Kansas City was calling for the denial of Holy Communion to Sebelius – a Catholic – because of her pro-choice stands, she confidently initiated health care reforms that dropped abortions by 8.5 percent. We appreciate and endorse her ability to see through the bluster and deliver what should be a win-win: providing more options so fewer women feel the need for abortions.

Good choice, President Obama.

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