Sunday, March 1, 2009

Thoughts on Locke & Sebelius

It's been a few days since President Obama named former Washington Governor Gary Locke as his third choice to become Secretary of Commerce. Most people outside the Evergreen state remember Locke as the guy who gave the Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union Address in 2003. But only months later, Locke announced he would not seek a third term in office.

He seems to be a moderate, business oriented Democrat. Of course, Locke was the first Chinese American to elected as a state governor and his ties to China have been strongly emphasized. It appears Locke is a lock to get the nomination but then again being Commerce Secretary in the Obama Administration is quickly becoming like being a drummer in Spinal Tap.

What will be interesting though is to see what happens to the 2010 Census. Shortly after Obama appointed New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg to the post, the White House took away responsibility for the Census from Gregg. Should Locke be confirmed one wonders if they will quietly return responsibility for the Census to the Commerce Secretary.

Tomorrow afternoon, President Obama is due to announce Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as his new Secretary of Health and Human Services. Last June, I predicted Obama would pick Sebelius to be his running mate. ( Wrong again.

Like Locke, Sebelius has also delivered the Democratic response to the State of the Union. She did so a year ago with President Bush's last address to both houses of Congress.

I have two predictions. First, Kansas will elect a Republican governor in 2010. Then again I think a lot of states will be electing Republican governors in 2010. Second, I think there could be a Republican fillibuster on Sebelius given her views on abortion. Especially where it concerns Dr. George Tiller, a physician known for performing late term abortions. Look for Sebelius to be grilled hard by Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi, the ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee as well as Oklahoma Senator Dr. Tom Coburn and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.

However, I believe her nomination will reach the floor of the Senate because of Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts. Four decades ago he was the administrative assistant to Republican Congressman Keith Sebelius. The late Congressman was the father-in-law of Kathleen Sebelius. Her son, Ned, once worked as an intern for Roberts. Methinks he will vote in her favor. If there is a fillibuster it would be on the Senate floor.

This might represent the only opportunity for the GOP to fillibuster. Sooner or later, there will be a resolution to the Senate election in Minnesota. If there is a resolution it will be very likely in favor of Al Franken. So if Senate Republicans are thinking fillibuster now would be the time.

It should be noted that Sebelius will not pull double duty as Obama had planned with Tom Daschle. He was to be both at the helm of HHS and the health czar. As I predicted, Obama is now splitting up the two jobs. ( Hey, every dog gets a bone once in a while.

USA Today is mentioning Nancy Ann DeParle as a possible pick. She oversaw the federal agency that administers Medicare and Medicaid during most of President Clinton's second term.

Obama is planning a health care summit on Thursday. It looks like he wants to move as swiftly on health care as he has with the economy. He better be careful. People can only handle so much at once.

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