April 13th, 2014
01:43 PM ET
8 months ago

Sebelius’ resignation and the politics of Obamacare

(CNN) – Kathleen Sebelius, the outgoing health and human services secretary, said the decision to step down from her post was hers - not the Obama administration's.

After seeing Obamacare through its botched rollout and the eight-week fix period, and past the 7 million sign-up goal after the open enrollment deadline, Sebelius announced last week she would step down, saying Sunday it was a "logical time to leave."

The politics of a departure

In an interview with NBC's Andrea Mitchell that aired Sunday on "Meet the Press," Sebelius said she started talking to President Barack Obama about her resignation "after the first of the year."

“And I went back to him in early March and said, ‘You know, I'm really optimistic we’re going to meet the targets and the enrollment is good, the site is working well. I think once we finish this first chapter you really should begin to look for the next secretary who can be here through the end of your term.’ And that really wasn't a commitment I was willing to make. And he knew that," she said.

Asked by Mitchell if Obama tried to talk her out of leaving, Sebelius said she "made it pretty clear" that wasn't going to happen.

Sebelius replacement steps into line of fire

Obama announced Friday that he will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, currently the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to be the next health secretary - the Cabinet official who's ultimately responsible for overseeing Obamacare.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn called Burwell an "interesting choice,” suggesting the Obama administration sought out a replacement who could manipulate the numbers on the Affordable Care Act's solvency.

"I think there are many of us, and probably a bit of a growing consensus, that they know they've got a math problem with Obamacare, and the numbers are not going to work out so that the program is actuarially sound. And they're going to have to have somebody to kind of spin the numbers," the Tennessee Republican said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"With Burwell coming from OMB, I think they are expecting her to be able to do for them," she said, adding that Sebelius' resignation doesn't mean the end of GOP's fight to repeal the law.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, said "there's no doubt (Sebelius) had to go."

"When you think of HealthCare.gov as being synonymous with failure, there has to be changes," he said on "Fox News Sunday."

"The real question that we should be asking ourselves is that, as we're looking at the upcoming confirmation hearing, will the next secretary have America first? Or will they have the administration's policies and trying to carry the water for the President as their primary responsibility?"

Scott said Burwell was a solid choice for OMB, but that doesn't make her a "good choice for HHS." Scott wouldn't say whether he'll vote to confirm Burwell but did say he wouldn't vote against her just because he's against Obamacare.

Can Democrats run with it?

Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland praised Sebelius’ five-year tenure, saying she "was able to accomplish all the things she set out to do.” He said he'd stand by the law, even as Obama's sweeping health care initiative remains unpopular among American voters.

"We have to go out there and argue the moral issues, and I've said that all the time," Cummings said on "Face the Nation" of Democrats facing political blowback from the law in this year's midterm election.

Five things polling tells us about Obamacare

Heading further into 2014, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rep. Steve Israel acknowledged the politics of running a campaign supportive of Obamacare are risky.

“There's a tough climate, no question about it. I won't sugarcoat it, but the climate has changed,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“I remember in October, when the Republicans shut down the entire federal government, a lot of pundits and prognosticators and experts were predicting that we would win 50 seats. Three weeks later, over the rollout of a website in the Affordable Care Act, the same pundits were saying that we were going to lose 50 seats. Climates change.”

2014 key races: CNN: Key races to watch in 2014

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. The Real Tom Paine

    Ah, so the great Marsha Blackburn has already uncovered the REAL motivation behind the Burwell nomination: to lie. Its obvious that the GOP will continue to fight the law because nothing could possibly be successful if it comes from the Feds. Now, how many federal installations are in Blackburn's district? I would guess quite a few. Tim Scott should be well aware of how much of SC economy relies upon federal dollars, but that will go unnoticed by the mouth breathers, who will ignore the GOP's lies of ommission in this latest round of getting rid of the ACA. Their own dependence upon federal dollars will be ignored because they don't want the "taker" label to be put where it belongs.

    April 13, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  2. Miami Mike

    Kathleen has accepted he new job as Obama's official "speed bump", because he'll be "throwing he throwing her under the bus" as much as possible.

    April 13, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  3. Lizzie

    Thanks to Obamacare, my daughter has now insurance for $200 a month with a $12000 deductible, Did anyone think that if someone CANNOT afford insurance! how they are now paying for it. No wonder insurance companies wanted Obamacare, get money, do nothing for it.

    April 13, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  4. Gunderson

    Yes,
    Politics of Obama Care. You got that right. The Liberals want to Re-Invent the Old Soviet Union where they control everything.

    April 13, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  5. Rick McDaniel

    ObamaCare will remain, as the single worst piece of legislation ever to be passed by (only) the Democratic Party.

    April 13, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  6. Gurgyl

    --nothing fault at ACA Law, it is a Law, needed much in USA, going to be huge success just like SS,Medicare. GOP has no clue. If people of USA wise–get rid off all republican junk in next election. Educate.

    April 13, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  7. Hal

    I lost my health insurance because of obamacare. Why do democrats want to take peoples health plans and insurance away from them? Do they hate Americans that much?

    April 13, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  8. Tom

    I think Rep. Israel is correct, what is really going to matter is what is on voter's minds in November 2014. The Republicans are betting heavily that Obamacare will still be a hot issue. If, as the ACA continues to roll out, the issue fades from voter's minds, it could be trouble for the GOP. Listening to the pundits is not useful. Most are biased and are frequently wrong (remember Karl Rove on election night 2012?).

    April 13, 2014 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  9. don in albuquerque

    Rick McDaniel

    ObamaCare won't remain. I doubt it has another five years of life in it. What will replace it will be Single Payer as it should have been in the first place. And who is going to back it. Just about every employer in the country. ObamaCare was just the first step in a chain reaction. And much to the right wings shagrin Obama will probably go down in history as one of greats because he had the foresight to start the ball rolling.

    April 13, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  10. Chris-E...al

    Obamacare coundnt even fix the virus Sebelius . . It will get you down . .

    April 13, 2014 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  11. Hal

    I lost my health insurance because of obamacare. Why do democrats want to take health insurance away from people?

    April 13, 2014 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  12. marv

    Kathleen, I want to thank you for providing me the chance at less gaudy coverage which modestly doesn't prematurely pay anything until my out of pocket maximum is reached. Thanks too for helping me dispose of this burdensome cash which could have been paid to those insurance fat cat donors to the Democratic Party all of these years that I was wasting it feeding, clothing and educating my kids.

    If only I had known that I could pay twice as much for less coverage, I would have left them cold hungry and ignorant and they could be loyal democrats for life.

    April 13, 2014 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  13. Brineybones

    The vast majority of Republicans are interested only in following the Constitution and keeping government in check and under budget. If that sounds racist to you, YOU have a problem... Get help. I'd wager that the Democrats have more racists among them than does the GOP. Among Dems, you find racists at BOTH ends of the spectrum, Black and White...

    April 13, 2014 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  14. just saying

    in an administration stocked full with incompetents from top to bottom, nobody gets fired, even the total incompetent that takes 3 years and nearly a billion dollars to bungle the roll out of the one great disaster this incompetent president has managed to create. it was very fitting that she even bungled her fair well speech. and did anybody bother to tell the american people how much of that disaster web site still remains to be done? how much of it is not still not working? nope. all these people do is lie to congress and to the american people, over and over. anybody that believes a word they say needs their head examined. we have lost track of all the lies and deceit they have been caught in.

    April 13, 2014 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  15. Hector Slagg

    Aw,
    Anytime you have a mid air collision is not a good day. Anytime you hit an Iceberg is not a good day. Anytime you leave with your tail between your legs is not a good day.

    April 13, 2014 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  16. God MAY NOT be a Liberal, but He IS a Democrat

    For over 60 years the Republicans tried to deny that there were glaring problems for the American public in healthcare. They did nothing about it. The Democrats didd something about it. I`m from a minset that rewards LEADERSIP that can recognize a problem and then have both the intellect and the STONES to do something about it. The Republican party has demonstrated neither and should be relegated to 2nd class status.

    April 13, 2014 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  17. ED1

    Sebelius even said Obamacare was not ready to roll out what a joke Obama and the Democrats have been the past 5 years.

    Some things should be kept in Obamacare but only a few the rest needs to be scraped.

    April 13, 2014 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  18. rh

    The simple most logical explanation is 99.9% of the time the answer to a problem. If you have the money you can drive a car, if you don't you can try to walk and hope for the best. The 2000+ pages, the lies to pass it, the delays, the exceptions to the law for many point to one certain outcome for this boat anchor to healthcare solutions. It is doomed. Those who fight it need to just let it go. It will sink under its own weigh is one thought on how to fight it. The problem may be that it's supporters will continue to prop it up with the funny money that is so common in todays budget talks. We are trying to build an annex on one side of the house and a seven alarm fire is raging on the other side.

    April 14, 2014 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  19. king

    its amazing how backward people thinks, obamacare is affordable health insurance folks, what is so hard to understand about that. did you guys liked the way it felt to get a bill in your mail for thousands of dollars for an hour visit to the emergency room. where does these people come from. its amazing how the repubs tell these folks that being without healthcare for them and their families is the way to go and these people believe that. do they actually believe that the repubs will get rid of obamacare and replace it with anything, much less something equal. their cannot be that much hatred for one man, for the right wing to try their best to destroy this country. i guest they also believe giving the senate to the repubs will stop the repubs from doing their best to destroy this country too huh. haha haha haa.

    April 14, 2014 01:48 am at 1:48 am |
  20. Heydebbu

    Why create more expensive government programs when we could have added the uninsured to current programs, like medicaid, chips, medicare, etc?

    April 14, 2014 01:59 am at 1:59 am |
  21. Heydebbu

    And now we know why Cummings was so upset at Lerner's hearing, he did have some thing to hide!

    April 14, 2014 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  22. J.V.Hodgson

    Her resignation or being thrown under the bus removes one source of attack at least = that if Sibelius remained HHS could under her therefor be attacked as HHS being run by an incompetent and that she would be unable to follow thru with effective full implementation. That option to attack PPACA has gone.
    Now having to resort to only 7.5m enrolled " " will not hold up for long within 2.5 months those that have paid up will be known, and the fact of 3m kids up to 26 are now covered and over 3m now have Medicaid ( 5.2m more could have if) Republicans would sign up to it. Remember 100 m also who have policies cover thru employment are not affected in the run up to this election
    Democrats need to stand on this ( PPACA and other policies for the middle class and poor and ginny up the turnout and the devastating affects on most voters of the Ryan budget, and the positive impacts of democratic economic policy.
    Republicans go into this election with its lowest rating ever in the eyes of Joe public.
    I do not see them making huge gains in the house and not enough in the senate to take control as the Independents will crush them on their policy.
    Regards,
    Hodgson

    April 14, 2014 02:38 am at 2:38 am |
  23. salty dog

    Lizzie, half truths again, that's a total out of pocket number, mine is 12500 . Your better question is with your daughter unable to afford better insurance, and you seriously think feeding the top 1% will change that, hello. You don't sound like you have any reason to vote gop, what exactly do you think they have to offer you? What policies have they championed that help working class? What do you think their budget plan does? Raises your taxes, gets rid of your ss, and Medicaid, but good news, the top tax rates will go down to under 2%, and that's sure to enhance your life, how anyone buys into that is beyond belief.

    April 14, 2014 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  24. Gurgyl

    -tell your daughter to Enroll directly from Government-Run Healthcare-Exchanges, bronze plan–if you wait another year, it will be lot cheaper too with low deduction.

    April 14, 2014 07:30 am at 7:30 am |