March 2, 2009
On Saturday, an Obama administration spokesperson confirmed that Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius had accepted the president's invitation to become secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. If confirmed by the Senate, Sebelius would assume leadership of the department's 65,000 employees, who are responsible for public health, food safety, scientific research, and administering the Medicare and Medicaid programs that serve 90 million Americans. The president had originally nominated Thomas Daschle for the position, but the former senator withdrew his name following controversy regarding unpaid back taxes and interest. An administration source said the president will likely nominate someone else to be director of the White House Office of Health Reform, a related position Daschle had created for himself. The nomination of Sebelius, who served eight years as her state's insurance commissioner and is halfway through her second term as governor, comes as the White House prepares to convene a summit on reforming the nation's $2.3 trillion health care system.