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Obama Nominates Sebelius to HHS

A few big announcements from the Obama administration on the health care front today: Confirming reports over the weekend that he was set to do so, President Obama officially named Kansas’ Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as his nominee for secretary of health and human services. You may recall that Sebelius’ predecessor as the HHS nominee, former House Speaker Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), had a bit of a tax problem.

Daschle was also supposed to take an additional policy post in the White House as the administration’s “health care czar.” Today, Obama announced Clinton administration veteran Nancy-Ann DeParle will fill the position — which is officially known as “Counselor to the President and Director of the White House Office for Health Reform.” Whew!

Finally, in case you were wondering when some of this stimulus money will be released to start work on “shovel-ready projects,” Obama announced the release of $155 million alotted in the stimulus bill for the “support of 126 new health care centers” to provide primary and preventative care to an estimated 755,000 uninsured Americans. According to a White House statement, the funds will create 5,500 jobs.

One quick note on the Sebelius nomination: One story that is currently flying under the radar nationally is the radical impact that Obama’s elevation of former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano’s to secretary of homeland security has had on her home state. With Napolitano gone and a new conservative Republican governor in place, there is little check on the Republican-controlled state legislature. Arizonans are seeing the results, such as the legislature’s easy passage of dramatically increased restrictions on abortion in the state — which, not incidentally, is very similar to legislation twice vetoed by Napolitano.

Unlike their brethren in Arizona, Kansas Democrats may have a bit of breathing room — at least temporarily. If Sebelius is confirmed by the Senate, Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson — a Republican-turned-Democrat who was Sebelius’ running mate in 2006 — will take over for the remainder of her term, which ends in January 2011 . However, Parkinson has pledged not to seek another term — while Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kans.), an anti-abortion zealot and creationist, has already thrown his hat in the ring. With its state legislature long dominated by Republicans, Kansas may find itself in Arizona’s position soon enough.

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