Page last updated at 20:58 GMT, Monday, 2 March 2009

Sebelius picked for health post

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. File photo
Ms Sebelius was an early supporter of Mr Obama

US President Barack Obama has nominated Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to be his administration's new health secretary, the White House has said.

"Today, President Barack Obama officially nominated Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services," it said.

Ms Sebelius had earlier been tipped for several cabinet posts, but had said she wanted to focus on her work in Kansas.

Mr Obama has placed healthcare at the centre of his ambitious fiscal plan.


"In this role, Sebelius will oversee a department with wide-ranging responsibilities essential to the American people, including the implementation of the president's vision for health care," the White House statement said.

Ms Sebelius, 60, replaced Mr Obama's first choice as health secretary, former Senator Tom Daschle, who withdrew after questions were asked about his personal taxes.

We can't fix the economy without fixing healthcare
Kathleen Sebelius

It emerged in January that Mr Daschle had failed to pay some $130,000 (£90,000) in taxes.

Mr Obama later accepted his nominee's withdrawal "with sadness and regret", acknowledging that he had "made a mistake" in his handling of Mr Daschle's case.

At the White House event announcing her nomination, Ms Sebelius said healthcare reform was her top priority.

"We can't fix the economy without fixing healthcare," she said.

"This isn't a partisan challenge. It's an American challenge and one that we can't afford to ignore."

Former Clinton administration health official Nancy-Ann DeParle will serve as head of the White House Office for Health Reform, which has been created to help co-ordinate healthcare reform with Congress.

Mr Obama has put affordable healthcare at the core of his domestic programme, and Ms Sebelius will focus in her new job on providing coverage for some 46 million uninsured Americans.

Ms Sebelius's appointment as health secretary has to be ratified by the US Senate.

The Kansas governor was an early supporter of Mr Obama during the marathon presidential election campaign, choosing to endorse him over Hillary Clinton.

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