A Senate panel on Tuesday approved the nomination of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to head the Health and Human Services secretary, but not before several Republicans criticized her for having ties to a high-profile abortion doctor.
The Senate Finance Committee voted 15-8 to send Mrs. Sebelius’ nomination to the full Senate for a final vote, which is expected in the coming days.
Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, praised Mrs. Sebelius and promised to push for a quick full Senate vote on her confirmation.
“Too many families and businesses are hurting as a result of the health care crisis and I believe Governor Sebelius is the right person to help create a lower cost, higher quality health care system that Americans need,” Mr. Baucus said.
But some Republican senators say they are uncomfortable with Mrs. Sebelius’ inaccurate response to the Finance Committee about how much campaign money she received from Dr. George Tiller, a Wichita abortion doctor who is under investigation by Kansas’ medical board over late-term procedures he performed.
The governor told the committee in written responses after her confirmation hearing this month that Dr. Tiller had given her $12,450 between 1994 and 2001.
She later amended that response after Associated Press reveled that Dr. Tiller and his abortion clinic donated another $23,000 between 2000 and 2002 to a political action committee she created to raise money for fellow Democrats. Sebelius apologized and called it an oversight.
Committee member Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, said that while he initially considered Mrs. Sebelius a worthy candidate to head the Health and Human Services Department (HHS), he now has doubts.
“After learning about her inexplicable omission of donations from the late-term abortion doctor George Tiller, I have to reevaluate my support for her nomination,” Mr. Hatch said Monday. “I regard human life to be sacred, and it troubles me to have someone with an apparent cavalier attitude toward life as well as a lack of candor on this important issue head our nation’s health services.”
Mrs. Sebelius is Mr. Obama’s second choice for the post after former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle withdrew in a tax controversy.
The Kansas governor in recent weeks has faced her own tax problems, telling the committee last month that she recently corrected three years of tax returns and paid $7,000 in back taxes for mistakes related to business expenses, the sale of a home and charitable contributions.
Committee members said she were satisfied with her explanation that errors were unintentional.
Sean Lengell covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at email@example.com.
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