- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama’s nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, faced no questions about her tax problems Thursday, instead telling a friendly Senate panel about how pushing the White House’s health-care reforms would be her primary “mission” if confirmed.

“We face a health system that burdens families, business and government budgets with skyrocketing costs,” she said while testifying before the Senate Finance Committee. “Action is not a choice — it is a necessity.”

The governor, like her appearance Tuesday before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, faced a mostly friendly round of questions. No senator Thursday asked her about a revelation that surfaced this week that she failed to pay $7,000 taxes on time.

Mrs. Sebelius told the Finance Committee — which has the final say in sending Mrs. Sebelius’ nomination to the full Senate for a vote — that she wants to strengthen the Medicare, and Medicaid’s programs, saying they are “key components of health care coverage in our country.”

And several times she mentioned the important of promoting preventive medicine, saying the Americans have a personal responsibility for staying healthy.

“We cannot achieve our ultimate goal — a healthier nation — unless we shift away from a sick-care system,” she said. “We pay for emergencies, not the care that prevents them.”

Former Senate Republican leader Bob Dole, who hails from Mrs. Sebelius’ home state, spoke on Mrs. Sebelius’ behalf, asking the committee to quickly approve her nomination.

“Kathleen has the experience … and that’s what we need — somebody with the experience and courage” to lead the agency, Mr. Dole said. “If we had some namby pamby leader at HHS we wouldn’t get anywhere.”

Mrs. Sebelius said her tax woes was the result of “unintentional errors” that were related to mistakes resulting from the sale of a home and charitable contributions.

Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat and committee chairman, has defended the nominee, saying earlier this week that “she’s the right person for the job.”

Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the committee’s top Republican, told reporters Wednesday that Mrs. Sebelius made a good-faith effort to pay her taxes correctly, and errors discovered in a recent review should not count against her.

Mrs. Sebelius’ tax problem publicly surfaced almost two months after Mr. Obama’s first choice to head the Health and Human Services Department — former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle — withdrew after reports that he failed to pay $140,000 in taxes and interest.

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