It's Time to Confirm Sebelius
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Apr 27, 2009 at 12:19:20 PM EDT
The right is very concerned about swine flu. But are Republicans and their right wing allies concerned enough that they're going to stop working to keep President Obama's staff from being fully staffed -- including the key position of Health and Human Services? Here's First Read:
If you hadn't realized it, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano might have the toughest public relations job in Washington these days. [...] [N]ow it's swine flu. This is the ultimate job in government where you have to have a thick skin, because you only are in the news when the news is bad. (Here's the latest on swine flu: U.S. officials have declared a health emergency as 20 cases of the flu have been confirmed in the United States. In Mexico, there have been more than 1,600 illnesses and 103 deaths.) Indeed, the flu frenzy seems to be falling on Napolitano's shoulders, given -- as Politico writes -- that HHS secretary-designate Kathleen Sebelius hasn't been confirmed yet (due to GOP concerns over abortion) and that we have an acting CDC director. If there was one subject area this administration wished they could have waited a few more weeks before dealing with its first mini-crisis, it was something in the public health arena. [emphasis added]
Republicans may believe that it's worthwhile for them to try to score political points in futile efforts at obstructionism (as I have noted before, Kathleen Sebelius appears to have sufficient support to overcome a Republican filibuster in tomorrow's expected cloture vote), but they need to realize that their posturing comes with real costs. In this case, the federal government is without one of the key players who could help manage the response to the developing threat of swine flu (or other potential health issues, for that matter). Of course Republicans haven't been known to put much stock in placing good governance over politics (see: Michael "Heckuva Job Brownie" Brown), so perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised. That said, there are real costs to the Republicans' tactics, and it is definitely time for Sebelius to be confirmed by the Senate.
Update [2009-4-27 17:11:40 by Todd Beeton]:Ah, yes. Sweet right-wing conspiracy theories. This from Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women of America:
Some people think that declaring a state of emergency about the flu was a political thing to push the Sebelius nomination through, said Wright. She pointed at news stories that ask whether the slow-walking of the Sebelius choice will hurt the response to the flu. If theres even a hint that [Department of Homeland Security] is manipulating the health situation to push a political appointee through, well, it almost defies imagination that theyd be willing to that.
Wright said that shed heard the speculation on talk radio, and wanted to be skeptical, but theres too much of a basis in that argument to easily dismiss it.
I guess it's hard not to indulge in this type of cynicism about the nature of government after 8 years of Bush.