Health secretary Kathleen Sebelius resigns after rocky health care rollout

Health secretary Kathleen Sebelius resigns after rocky health care rollout

Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Health secretary Kathleen Sebelius resigns after rocky health care rollout

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by Fredreka Schouten, Kelly Kennedy and Aamer Madhani / USA TODAY

KING5.com

Posted on April 10, 2014 at 3:49 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 10 at 4:51 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After a difficult five years shepherding President Obama's signature health care law, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has tendered her resignation, according to two senior administration officials.

Obama accepted the resignation this week and intends to announce that he will nominate his Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to replace Sebelius.

He will make the formal announcement at 11 a.m. on Friday at the White House, according to officials, who asked not to be identified so as not to preempt the president.

In recent months, Sebelius has faced heavy scrutiny after the troubled launch of the federal online marketplace, and has been deluged with Republican attacks over the costs of the Affordable Care Act.

During the first difficult weeks of the federal marketplace, Sebelius proved to be an unsteady administration spokeswoman for the health care law.

She struggled mightily in an interview on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart weeks after th the launch to explain the problems with the balky website. And she set off Republican howls when she tartly to those who called for her resignation after the bungled launch of HealthCare.gov as "people who I don't work for and who do not want this program to work in the first place." She was even lampooned on Saturday Night Live.

Still, Obama stuck with her, saying that the IT problems could not be blamed on the HHS secretary.

White House officials suggested Sebelius made the decision on her own to resign and was not forced out of the post, but she had been under fire since the troubled launch of HealthCare.gov on Oct. 1. She first notified Obama on her intent to step down in early March, according to one White House official.

On Thursday, Sebelius touted to the Senate Finance Committee that 7.5 million people had enrolled in private health insurance plans—500,000 more people more than Congressional Budget Office's initial projections.

Burwell was confirmed into her current post by the Senate last April. She previously served as president of the Walmart Foundation and spent a decade with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She held a number of senior positions in the Clinton administration, including serving as Clinton's deputy chief of staff.

Sebelius, a former governor from the deep red state of Kansas, had become a punching bag for Republicans.

House Majority Eric Cantor, R-Va., greeted news of Sebelius's departure with snark.

"I thank Secretary Sebelius for her service. She had an impossible task: nobody can make Obamacare work," Cantor wrote on Twitter.

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus called Sebelius's oversight of the rollout of the healthcare law "disastrous."

"The next HHS Secretary will inherit a mess—Americans facing rising costs, families losing their doctors, and an economy weighed down by intrusive regulations," Priebus said. "No matter who is in charge of HHS, ObamaCare will continue to be a disaster and will continue to hurt hardworking Americans. It's time for President Obama to admit that Democrats' signature law is a failure and heed Republican calls for patient-centered healthcare reform."

Obama thought Burwell--with a strong reputation inside and outside government as a manager--was an ideal candidate to be the next HHS secretary, officials said. She also proved her mettle to Obama during last fall's 16 day government shutdown, the officials said.

Politics also runs deep in Burwell's blood. Her mother, Cleo, is the former mayor of her hometown, Hinton, W.Va.

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