Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Thursday she would be resigning. Sebelius is among the longest serving members of the Obama administration’s cabinet. Marred by criticism from the disastrous rollout of the first open enrollment of the Affordable Care Act and the initial problems with the healthcare.gov website, she will leave after having served 5 years.
Sebelius was tapped by the Obama administration in 2009 to serve as secretary of health and human services while she was the governor of Kansas.
The departure comes as the Obama administration tries to move beyond its early stumbles in carrying out the law, persuade a still-skeptical public of its lasting benefits, and help Democratic incumbents, who face blistering attack ads after supporting the legislation, survive the midterm elections this fall.
Mr. Obama accepted Ms. Sebelius’s resignation this week, and on Friday morning he will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace her, officials said.
Officials said Ms. Sebelius, 65, made the decision to resign and was not forced out. But the frustration at the White House over her performance had become increasingly clear, as administration aides worried that the crippling problems at HealthCare.gov, the website set up to enroll Americans in insurance exchanges, would result in lasting damage to the president’s legacy.
Even last week, as Mr. Obama triumphantly announced that enrollments in the exchanges had exceeded seven million, she did not appear next to him for the news conference in the Rose Garden.
The president is hoping that Ms. Burwell, 48, a Harvard- and Oxford-educated West Virginia native with a background in economic policy, will bring an intense focus and management acumen to the department. The budget office, which she has overseen since April of last year, is deeply involved in developing and carrying out health care policy.
Republicans quickly made clear that Sebelius' departure will not temper their criticisms of ObamaCare.
"Secretary Sebelius oversaw a disastrous rollout of ObamaCare, but anyone can see that there are more problems on the way," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said. "The next HHS Secretary will inherit a mess -- Americans facing rising costs, families losing their doctors, and an economy weighed down by intrusive regulations. No matter who is in charge of HHS, ObamaCare will continue to be a disaster and will continue to hurt hardworking Americans."