In support of Kathleen Sebelius

Published 9:31 pm Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Following is a transcript of Sen. Mark Warner’s comments on the Senate floor in support of former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ nomination for the position of Secretary of Health and Human Services. Sebelius was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday. His remarks are directed toward Vice President Joe Biden, who also serves as president of the Senate.

Mr. President, I rise today in support of the nomination of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Most members of the Senate realize there will not be true, comprehensive economic recovery in this country unless we can also take on the massive challenge of reforming our health care system. The current cost of our health care system — $2.4 trillion and rising — is simply unsustainable over the long term. That’s why it’s so important the Senate act rapidly in the confirmation of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

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During my tenure as governor of Virginia, I worked closely with her on a range of issues, particularly issues revolving around Medicaid reform. There is no issue that confronts states across the country more than the rising costs of Medicaid. And as we take on health care reform at the federal level, reform of Medicaid has to be a critical component of those aspects, and Gov. Sebelius has a long record of working with other governors all across the country from both parties in this terribly important area.

Mr. President, as you laid out in your earlier comments on Gov. Sebelius, she brings a unique set of skills to the challenge – former state legislator, former state insurance commissioner, and now the two-term governor of Kansas. As we strive in this body to try to reach bipartisan consensus on this terribly important issue, no one brings a better record of working across the aisle to reach that bipartisan consensus than Gov. Sebelius. She has a legislature that is overwhelmingly of the opposite party, but her overwhelming reelection and her ability to show tangible efforts in the area of health care reform in Kansas gives her the appropriate background to take on this challenge in the national debate.

For example, Gov. Sebelius worked with her legislature and her small business community to significantly increase tax benefits to small businesses. Gov. Sebelius recently worked with her legislature as well with the dramatic expansion of the SCHIP program, a legislative initiative that was actually introduced by the Republican legislative leadership. She worked again in concert. As we move forward on the issue of health care reform, we need and President Obama needs someone who has got a long-term record of building bridges between parties. Health care reform is too important not to have that kind of consensus-building activities. Gov. Sebelius has got the background. Gov. Sebelius has got the track record in health care. And I can speak personally from a standpoint that she has the temperament to work to try to bring both sides together.

I would add, Mr. President, I think most of us in these last few days have not been able to pick up a newspaper or talk to our constituents back home without hearing about the growing concerns about the possibility of a swine flu pandemic. This challenge — which has already paralyzed the country of Mexico, and we all are following very closely the possible rise of cases here in the United States — this challenge potentially confronts our nation in a very dramatic way. It is essential for the health of the nation that President Obama has in place — and the nation has in place — a strong Secretary of Health and Human Services to make sure that our federal efforts on this potential pandemic are ably coordinated.