Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Thursday she has few details to share on why Sen. Tom Harkin decided to hold up President Obama’s pick to run the nation’s Medicare agency.
Mrs. Sebelius told reporters that Mr. Harkin, Iowa Democrat, was “unhappy” with the use of money from the Prevention and Public Health Fund before he placed a hold on Marilyn B. Tavenner’s nomination to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), despite bipartisan support for the nominee.
Mr. Harkin has been a key advocate for the fund, which promotes public health initiatives and disease prevention. Yet the fund has been raided for certain purposes, including about $450 million to implement federally run insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act by 2014.
Republican opponents of “Obamacare” have accused the Obama administration of using the pool of money as a “slush fund,” but Mrs. Sebelius says Congress underfunded efforts to implement the health care law.
Ms. Tavenner, meanwhile, has enjoyed widespread support from the Senate Finance Committee and a ringing endorsement from Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, for her work in the Old Dominion’s private sector and state government.
Despite the unexpected hurdle in front of Ms. Tavenner’s nomination, Mrs. Sebelius said Thursday she’s “hopeful that she will be voted on by the full Senate.”