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Sebelius resigning as Obama's health secretary

By Julie Pace

AP White House Correspondent

LAST UPDATED: 03:23 p.m. HST, Apr 10, 2014

WASHINGTON » Embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning as the White House seeks to move past the election-year political damage inflicted by the rocky rollout of President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

Sebelius' resignation comes just over a week after sign-ups closed for the first year of insurance coverage under the so-called Obamacare law. The opening weeks of the enrollment period were marred by widespread website woes, though the administration rebounded strongly by enrolling 7.1 million people by the March 31 deadline, exceeding initial expectations. Enrollment has since risen to 7.5 million as people were given extra time to complete applications.

Even with the late surge in sign-ups, the law remains unpopular with many Americans and Republicans have made it a centerpiece of their efforts to retake the Senate in the fall.

Sebelius' resignation could also set the stage for a contentious confirmation hearing to replace her. In a sign that the White House is seeking to avoid a nomination fight, the president was tapping Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace Sebelius. Burwell was unanimously confirmed by the Senate for her current post.

A White House official requested anonymity to confirm Sebelius' resignation and Burwell's nomination ahead of the formal announcement. Obama has not nominated anyone to replace Burwell as budget director.

Obama remained publicly supportive of Sebelius throughout the rough rollout, deflecting Republican calls for her resignation. But she was conspicuously not standing by his side last week when he heralded the sign-up surge during an event in the White House Rose Garden.

The official said the 65-year-old Sebelius approached Obama last month about stepping down, telling him that the sign-up deadline was a good opportunity for a transition and suggesting he would be better served by someone who was less of a political target.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican from Sebelius' home state of Kansas, called the resignation "a prudent decision" given what he called the total failure of Obamacare implementation.

Sebelius dropped no hints about her resignation Thursday when she testified at a budget hearing. Instead, she received congratulations from Democratic senators on the sign-up surge.

A popular former governor of Kansas, Sebelius has been one of Obama's longest-serving Cabinet officials and his only HHS secretary. She was instrumental in shepherding the health care law through Congress in 2010 and implementing its initial components, including a popular provision that allows young people to stay on their parents' insurance plans until age 26.

But Sebelius' relationship with the White House frayed during the fall rollout of the insurance exchanges that are at the center of the sweeping overhaul. The president and his top advisers appeared caught off guard by the extent of the website woes, with warnings from those working on the technology never making it to the West Wing.

After technical problems crippled online sign-ups after the Oct. 1 launch, the White House sent management expert and longtime Obama adviser Jeffrey Zients to oversee a rescue operation that turned things around by the end of November. After taking helm of the project, Zients said management issues were partly to blame but did not point the finger at any individuals.

Sebelius took personal responsibility for the chaotic launch of the website and asked the HHS inspector general to conduct an investigation. That report is not expected for months.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a staunch supporter of the health care law, praised Sebelius as a "forceful, effective and essential" secretary.

"Secretary Sebelius was a leader in the long effort to make history for our country with passage of the Affordable Care Act," the California Democrat said in a statement.

In nominating the 48-year-old Burwell, Obama is tapping a Washington veteran with a low-profile and the respect of some Republicans on Capitol Hill. Though she only joined the Obama administration last year, Burwell held several White House and Treasury posts during President Bill Clinton's administration.

Between her stints in the executive branch, Burwell served as president of Wal-Mart's charitable arm and head of the global development program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

If confirmed, Burwell will have to with contend with huge challenges related to the continued implementation of the health overhaul, as well as the divisive politics surrounding the law that show no sign of abating.

On the practical side, the administration has to improve customer service for millions of Americans trying to navigate the new system. There's also a concern that premiums may rise for 2015, since many younger, healthier people appear to have sat out open enrollment season.

On the political front, congressional Republicans remain implacably opposed to Obamacare, even as several GOP governors have accepted the law's expansion of safety-net coverage under Medicaid. GOP opposition means Republicans can be expected to continue to deny additional funds for implementation.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell., R-Ky., welcomed Sebelius' resignation but appeared to indicate an openness to a dialogue with Burwell, the new HHS nominee — even as he declared that "Obamacare has to go."

"I hope this is the start of a candid conversation about Obamacare's shortcomings and the need to protect Medicare," McConnell said.

Associated Press writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Erica Werner in Washington, and John Hanna in Topeka, Kan., contributed to this report.

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loquaciousone wrote:
It's too bad. She did such a great job getting Obamacare up and running.
on April 10,2014 | 12:51PM
mrluke wrote:
Who's next in line, Moe, Larry or Curly?
on April 10,2014 | 01:05PM
loquaciousone wrote:
on April 10,2014 | 01:06PM
false wrote:
Abercrombie? Sounds good.
on April 10,2014 | 04:32PM
SteveToo wrote:
Obama. LOL
on April 10,2014 | 03:48PM
koolau wrote:
I'm reluctant to write a comment due to the concern that I am be censored. I'm concerned the less knowing public will take you seriously.
on April 10,2014 | 01:13PM
inverse wrote:
Beginning of the end of Obamacare.
on April 10,2014 | 01:01PM
hanalei395 wrote:
What inverse is saying, .... After 51 times, the Republcans will again try to repeal Obamacare.
on April 10,2014 | 03:54PM
false wrote:
No way! With 7.7 million individuals already signed up,no chance of repealing it. They'll reach 10 million signees in no time.
on April 10,2014 | 05:54PM
hanalei395 wrote:
After the 10 million signees, number 52 to "repeal" .......coming up.
on April 10,2014 | 06:32PM
soundofreason wrote:
Beings how open enrollment is closed.........doubt it.
on April 10,2014 | 07:50PM
serious wrote:
A couple of months too late, but she was sucked into the Obama supported Canadian company that donated to his campaign and got the $$$ contract that Amazon said they could have done for a tenth of the price and make it work!!! Keep voting for the D's!!
on April 10,2014 | 01:05PM
DiverDave wrote:
Yep serious, In the REAL world she would have been fired immediately for her failed job performance. Obama didn't fire her because he was afraid to upset her and have her say it was his fault, which it was. I think most of the talented computer kids could have also designed a working web site in a week.
on April 10,2014 | 01:17PM
ehrhornp wrote:
Yes I will continue to vote for the democrats. Republicans are so out to lunch they don't know that there is a problem with health insurance in this country. Pretty pathetic when one considers that it was a republican who first introduced this to the country 40 years ago. Republicans are definitely moving backwards.
on April 10,2014 | 01:54PM
pridon wrote:
Yes. There is a problem with health care. Poor dietary habits and lack of exercise. If individuals took respsonsibility for their own health, then those who are obese or have, lung cancer from smoking, and diabetes would be greatly diminished. Even poor people can exercise and don't have to over eat.
on April 10,2014 | 03:38PM
ehrhornp wrote:
Are you calling for more government regulation on what people can eat and what they must do? Get out and run 5 miles every other day? You must run the marathon?
on April 10,2014 | 06:20PM
soundofreason wrote:
ONLY if you want taxpayers to pay for your medical care.
on April 10,2014 | 07:51PM
ehrhornp wrote:
I would prefer if the government pays for my health care. Single pay is the most efficient way of providing health care. Why do you like paying double what other industrialized countries pay?
on April 10,2014 | 09:23PM
false wrote:
Agree with you,ehrhornp,republicans are moving backward. As more people sign up for Obamacare,especially the younger generation,people will come to realize the importance of this healthcare law.
on April 10,2014 | 06:03PM
ehrhornp wrote:
I am constantly amazed that republicans continue to just move backward. I had expected that they would have impeached Obama by now for not giving credit to the republicans for Obama care.
on April 10,2014 | 06:22PM
hybrid1 wrote:
If the ACA have the preexisting condition provision but don’t require insurers to issue a policy to all applicants, it won’t help anyone sick who needs it........... If the ACA have guaranteed medical issue provision but don’t require the same premiums regardless of health status, the sick won’t be helped because then insurance companies could charge astronomical rates for policies that would make it difficult if not impossible for those with preexisting conditions to afford them. .......And “if the other protections are in place but there is no individual mandate, then people will get coverage only after they get sick and that would collapse the entire private insurance market.” The solution is to eliminate the "for profit" private insurers, which is 99% if them.
on April 10,2014 | 02:42PM
BigErn wrote:
Pee-oh-ess obama should resign as well.
on April 10,2014 | 01:16PM
ehrhornp wrote:
GW never resigned. He should have been impeached and thrown in Gitmo.
on April 10,2014 | 06:24PM
soundofreason wrote:
But he wouldn't have been in long cause O'bama closed Gitmo on his day 1 promise. Oh, wait - Gitmo is still open.
on April 10,2014 | 07:52PM
ehrhornp wrote:
Because republicans were scared that a mean old terrorist would escape and rape a white woman. lol How pathetic.
on April 10,2014 | 09:24PM
Kahu Matu wrote:
Sebellius retires. Next Obamacare collapses. Insurance rates increase at a much slower rate. Doctors stay in practice. Seems like a logical flow.
on April 10,2014 | 01:33PM
Jerry_D wrote:
Well, you forgot the final variable to that flow....Obama serves out his term as president and receives a $400,000 "retirement" salary every year for the rest of his life.
on April 10,2014 | 01:40PM
Kahu Matu wrote:
Our current political system is disgusting and I only wish something would change. Sadly, the greedy idiots know how to make themselves career politicians by pandering to the hate and fear of the masses.
on April 10,2014 | 01:47PM
hybrid1 wrote:
Referendum needed for term limits for senators and reps?
on April 10,2014 | 02:45PM
WhyBother wrote:
on April 10,2014 | 04:59PM
ehrhornp wrote:
That is just petty cash compared to the money he will make on the speech book circuit.
on April 10,2014 | 02:01PM
ehrhornp wrote:
Not likely that Obama care collapses. What is likely to happen is that enrollment will continue to move forward in the years ahead and as a result the uninsured will drop to just about Zero. Republicans are such fools for rejecting one of their own plans.
on April 10,2014 | 02:00PM
pridon wrote:
And the Chinese will stop lending to the U.S. when the national debt hits $20 T and there won't be any money for subsidies, Medicare or Medicaid.
on April 10,2014 | 03:40PM
ehrhornp wrote:
Perhaps then we won't be number one in military and prison industrial complexes. Maybe this country will be smart and legalize marijuana and end the war on drugs. Shame the republicans were such big spenders after Clinton.
on April 10,2014 | 06:26PM
Kahu Matu wrote:
With your reasoning, legalize murder, prostitution, stealing, and every other crime so that we will have no further need for prisons, and the population will decrease as well. ehrhornp, you continue to depress me and remind me of just how immoral and corrupt we could be.
on April 11,2014 | 12:29AM
Winston wrote:
The Congressional Budget Office, just about the only non-partisan player in D.C., forecast that the number of uninsured by 2022 will remain at or above 31 million.
on April 10,2014 | 04:12PM
ehrhornp wrote:
Well that indicates a decline assuming population increases.
on April 10,2014 | 06:27PM
Bergonia wrote:
She had to step down. When May comes around and the insurance companies come out with what next year premiums will be, people will want blood. Mainly the middle class earning more than $47,000, which in Hawaii is not much, will be screaming for someone head. She was afraid that the Whitehouse would offer her as the sacrifice to the masses.
on April 10,2014 | 02:01PM
ehrhornp wrote:
You really should stop listening to propaganda media. They have been wrong continuously and will continue to be wrong.
on April 10,2014 | 09:27PM
kukui_nut wrote:
Didn't HMSA say the 12% rate increase is due to the ACA?
on April 10,2014 | 10:30PM
Ronin006 wrote:
The only thing surprising about Sebelius’ resignation is that it was so long in coming. Her handling or mishandling of the Obamacare rollout made her a liability for the Obama administration and for Democrats in the upcoming elections in November. She had to leave now to give Republicans one less target on which to focus during the election campaign. That, no doubt, is the wish of Democrats, but fear not; Republicans still have many more people in the Obama administration worthy of being targeted.
on April 10,2014 | 04:54PM
earlson wrote:
Another loyalist falling on the sword for the president
on April 10,2014 | 05:39PM
localboieastside wrote:
This Administration is probably the worst I seen ever. Lois L. , the head of the I.R.S would likely be the next to go unless she goes to jail first.
on April 10,2014 | 06:09PM
CloudForest wrote:
When you have losers in power you end up with botched everything. Obamaocare is just one symptom of everything gone bad....
on April 10,2014 | 11:09PM
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