Kansas Republicans Block Republican from Leading U.S. Army

While the United States is amid wars on multiple fronts, Kansas' two Republican Senators have irresponsibly placed a hold on President Obama's nominee for Secretary of the Army, Republican Congressman John McHugh.

Concerned that their state could become the home for some Guantánamo Bay detainees, Kansas' two Republican senators have placed a hold on the nomination of Rep. John M. McHugh as Army secretary. That means a litte more time as candidates in waiting for the people gearing up to run for McHugh's seat in an upstate New York district.

Sens. Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback are seeking answers from the Obama administration about the possible moves of some detainees to the prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

But that's not all:

Roberts and Brownback have also blocked Senate consideration of the Deputy Secretary of the Army, for the same reason. In both cases, the senators concede the nominees deserve consideration, but will have to wait until they're satisfied with an unrelated question. (Reminder: there are already terrorists being detained in Kansas, whether Roberts and Brownback realize it or not.)

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is reportedly "furious" with the far-right Republican senators who've blocked progress on the nomination. He's apparently under the impression that the Army needs leaders in their offices in the midst of two wars. Imagine that.

I wonder if anyone in the Kansas or D.C. media will ask Kansas' two Republican Senate candidates, Reps. Todd Tiahrt and Jerry Moran, whether or not they support the hold, preventing Army leadership from being in place during this time of war.  Oh, and if this is President Obama's thanks for appointing Republicans to leadership roles, those cries from Republicans seeking bipartisanship will continue to ring hollow.

For daily news and updates on the U.S. Senate races around the country, regularly read Senate Guru.

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Kathleen Sebelius for Health and Human Services Secretary?

The AP's Jennifer Loven is hearing the name of the Governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius, as a real possibility to be Barack Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was very near the top of President Barack Obama's list of candidates to head the Health and Human Services Department, a senior administration official said Saturday.

The source, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private administration deliberations, said no decision was imminent. But the official added the former Kansas insurance commissioner was rising as Obama considers prospective candidates.

[...]

Advocacy groups like the consumer watchdog role 60-year-old Sebelius played as insurance commissioner for eight years before she became governor.

Sebelius was one of the strongest surrogates for President Obama over the course of the 2008 campaign, during both the primaries and the general election, and was reportedly on the shortlist to join the Democratic ticket as the party's Vice Presidential nominee. She is also very popular, even in the deeply red state of Kansas, where 56 percent of voters -- including a respectable 42 percent of Republicans -- view her favorably. Perhaps the greatest downside to a Sebelius pick would be that her selection would turn what is a good Democratic pick up opportunity in the Kansas Senate race into a likely Republican retention. But whether Sebelius is on the inside track to the Obama cabinet, or even if she has a greater likelihood of being selected than, say, the moderate-to-conservative Phil Bredesen, remains to be seen.

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KS-Sen: Sebelius Leads Leading GOPers By Double-Digit Margin

Per Research 2000 polling for Daily Kos:

Todd Tiahrt (R): 37 percent
Kathleen Sebelius (D): 47 percent

Jerry Moran (R): 36 percent
Kathleen Sebelius (D): 48 percent

That's right. In a state in which no Democrat has won a Senate election since the landslide election of 1932, the incumbent Democratic Governor leads not one but two Republican Congressman -- and both by a double-digit margin. Kathleen Sebelius would still have the important 50 percent threshold to cross, which won't necessarily be easy. Then again, 56 percent of voters in the state still view Sebelius favorably, not too dissimilar from the 57.8 percent of the statewide vote she pulled in during her 2006 reelection bid. In other words, if Sebelius jumped into the Senate race, she wouldn't be a shoo-in -- but she would make the race a tossup, at worst, for the Democrats.

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KS-Sen: Brownback Set to Make Retirement from Senate Official

We've seen this one coming down the pike for a long while, but soon it will be official:

Sen. Sam Brownback will announce Thursday he is retiring from the Senate when his term ends in 2010, allowing the Kansas Republican to explore a run for governor.

He will be the second GOP senator this year to publicly state he is leaving at the close of the 111th Congress.

Brownback, who unsuccessfully sought the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, will not reveal his future political plans during the three news conferences planned for Thursday in Kansas. But a source close to Brownback said he will file gubernatorial paperwork in January.

The Democrats actually have a couple of potentially strong candidates for this open-seat race, with popular Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius removing her name from contention for the Obama cabinet and Congressman Dennis Moore, who has consistently won in a fairly Republican-leaning district, not running for reelection. Neither of the two Democrats would be favorites if they jumped in -- but they would clearly make the race competitive, despite the fact no Democrat has won a Senate election in the state since FDR was first elected.

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Sebelius Says No to Obama Cabinet Appointment

Very interesting and surprising news from Steve Kraske of The Kansas City Star:

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who was a finalist for vice president last summer and under consideration for several Cabinet posts in a Barack Obama administration, today withdrew her name from the selection process.

The surprise move ends intense political speculation that Sebelius was on her way to Washington and that Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson was about to become the state's new chief executive.

In a brief statement e-mailed to reporters at 4 p.m. today, Sebelius cited the state's worsening budget situation in the wake of the nation's economic crisis as her reason for staying.

"Given the extraordinary budget challenges facing our state, and my commitment to continuing the progress we've made in Kansas, I believe it is important to continue my service as governor of the great state of Kansas; a job that I love and have been honored to hold.  The possibility of joining President-elect Obama's team is exciting and compelling, but my service to the citizens who elected me is my top priority in these difficult times.

"The good news for Kansans is that we will soon have a partner in the White House working with us as we face our unprecedented economic challenges."

I have to say I didn't see this coming. The Departments of Labor and Energy seemed like very possible posts for Kathleen Sebelius, an early and ardent supporter of Barack Obama in the primaries. Sebelius was even seriously mentioned for Obama's running mate, perhaps even among the top half dozen potential picks. So to not see her in an Obama administration is at least a bit of a surprise.

But it isn't necessarily bad news. Sebelius is likely the strongest potential Senate candidate for the upcoming (likely) open seat election in Kansas -- a state, I might add, that hasn't elected a Democrat to the upper chamber of Congress in 76 years. Sebelius is very well liked in the state and would be a formidable foe for whomever the Republicans nominate to succeed Sam Brownback, who has already indicated he will not run for reelection in 2010. So while Sebelius would have brought a great deal to an Obama administration, having her on the outside, potentially running for the Senate two years from now, could actually do more to help Obama and the Democratic Party in the long run.

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