Breaking News: Senate Approves Sebelius to be HHS Secretary

By Christine Cupaiuolo — April 28, 2009

The U.S. Senate approved the nomination of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to be secretary of Health & Human Services. The vote was 65-31.

From the AP:

Sixty votes in the 100-seat Senate were necessary for approval. Immediately after the vote Sebelius resigned as governor in Kansas and headed to Washington to be sworn in. She drove directly from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to the White House, where she took her oath in the Oval Office.

“We wanted to swear her in right away because we’ve got a significant public health challenge that requires her immediate attention,” Obama said, standing beside the last Cabinet official to win Senate approval.

That “significant public health challenge” would be the swine flu (symptoms check). The White House even posted photos of Sebelius being briefed in the Situation Room.

With no HHS secretary up until now (about that …), and with other key positions still unfilled, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has been helping to lead the White House’s response to the outbreak. Here’s a look at some other health-related positions that need filling:

Sebelius, 60, a two-term Democrat, was the first of 20 HHS officials requiring Senate approval to win it, and she heads to work with many team members missing. The Senate hasn’t acted on Obama’s nominees for deputy HHS secretary or commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Obama hasn’t even nominated people for other key jobs, including surgeon general and assistant secretary for preparedness and response.

There’s also not been an appointment for head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, another component of the sprawling HHS, which has 65,000 employees and a $750 billion budget.


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