Kathleen Sebelius is resigning and handing off the reigns to current OMB director Sylvia Burwell, following the ACA's successful enrollment period which ended last month.
Officials said Ms. Sebelius, 65, made the decision to resign and was not forced out. But the frustration at the White House over her performance had become increasingly clear, as administration aides worried that the crippling problems at HealthCare.gov, the website set up to enroll Americans in insurance exchanges, would result in lasting damage to the president’s legacy.
Even last week, as Mr. Obama triumphantly announced that enrollments in the exchanges had exceeded seven million, she did not appear next to him for the news conference in the Rose Garden.
The president is hoping that Ms. Burwell, 48, a Harvard- and Oxford-educated West Virginia native with a background in economic policy, will bring an intense focus and management acumen to the department. The budget office, which she has overseen since April of last year, is deeply involved in developing and carrying out health care policy.
“The president wants to make sure we have a proven manager and relentless implementer in the job over there, which is why he is going to nominate Sylvia,” said Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff.
Last month, Ms. Sebelius approached Mr. Obama and began a series of conversations about her future, Mr. McDonough said. The secretary told the president that the March 31 deadline for sign-ups under the health care law — and rising enrollment numbers — provided an opportunity for change, and that he would be best served by someone who was not the target of so much political ire, Mr. McDonough said.
“What was clear is that she thought that it was time to transition the leadership to somebody else,” he said. “She’s made clear in other comments publicly that she recognizes that she takes a lot of the incoming. She does hope — all of us hope — that we can get beyond the partisan sniping.”
I'm sure all the headhunting conservatives are doing a happy dance and pretending they had something to do with her resignation. But maybe it's something as simple as the fact that she's 65 years old and ready to live a life where she doesn't have to worry about what burr Darrell Issa has up his butt on any given day.
I'm not singing her praises for how she implemented the law. I think she failed to manage things well and didn't put people in place who knew the technical and legal aspects necessary to get things up and running. But her position was an extremely difficult one, and if it were me, I'd be packing up my boxes and heading for a quiet retirement, too.