The Senate went nuclear and the GOP can't continue its filibuster siege on Obama nominees, but the right might get on thing they've been asking for: Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, might be out of a job soon. For over a month Republicans have been calling for Sebelius to step down — or be replaced by Obama — to no avail. Now there's a growing consensus that, since the president doesn't have to worry about his nominees being blocked by Republicans, he's more free to fire people, The Hill reports on Monday.
John Hudak, a fellow at the Brookings Institute, first made the argument on Friday, adding that this might actually be a good thing for Obamacare. Regardless of whether Sebelius, and some of her deputy cabinet members, were at fault for the website's failure or the "If you like you plan" problem, replacing her and others would give the administration an internal fresh start on Obamacare. Hudak writes:
By repositioning HHS personnel or breathing new life into a Department facing continued struggles, the president may well ensure the administration of his signature legislation accomplishment improves. The right appointees can coordinate and communicate policy needs and goals up and down the bureaucratic hierarchy. Rather than settling for a program that meets or falls short of expectations, there is an opportunity to build an effective ACA.
It doesn't help that congressional Democrats have become increasingly bold in their criticism leading up to the November 30 Healthcare.gov deadline. As Politico noted on Monday, Democrats are prepared to demand people be replaced, as well as point out corruption, waste, and incompetence in the building of the federal exchange, all in an effort to distance themselves from the law's failures.
Of course, the filibuster rule change has also given Obama the ability to make appointments to improve the administration of the bill on his terms, which isn't politically ideal for Republicans. The Independent Payment Advisory Board, created to recommend cost cutting in Medicare (aka the death panels), currently has zero members, though it's supposed to recommend its first round of cuts in January, according to The Hill. Those members need to be nominated and approved, and it's safe to assume the GOP would have filibustered the "death panelists." As The Hill reported in August, even some Democrats — along with a slew of healthcare industry lobbyist — are against the Advisory Board, though primarily those from red states. If Obama can't get his own party to approve his Advisory Board nominees, well, that would be another small victory for Republicans.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.