Sebelius becomes new HHS secretary

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Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Image Source:

Former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius won Senate confirmation late Tuesday to serve as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The 65-31 vote came after calls for swift action so that Sebelius could lead the federal response to the swine flu outbreak. Sixty votes in the 100-seat Senate were necessary for approval.

"It is an honor to lead the Department of Health and Human Services and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve at such a pivotal moment in our history. I come to the Department as our nation confronts a serious public health challenge, the 2009 flu outbreak," according to a statement from Sebelius issued by HHS.

"In the coming days, I will work closely with President Obama and officials from across the government as we address this threat," she said.
Some opponents had cited Sebelius' pro-choice stances. Others, such as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., touted the choice: "Secretary Sebelius will be a much-needed leader as we take on the urgent challenge of health care reform. We delay the repair of this broken, dysfunctional system at our peril, and her confirmation is a good step forward."

Sebelius was the final Obama Cabinet pick awaiting confirmation. She was his second choice as HHS secretary, after Sen. Thomas Daschle withdrew from the nomination process after his belated payment of $128,000 in federal taxes.

Sebelius will serve as the ninth U.S. HHS secretary.