The first high-profile female Democratic leader to endorse Obama over Hillary in the 2008 primaries was finally, inevitably sacrificed at the altar of the President’s Signature Legislative Achievement. Her unforgivable sin: causing "lasting damage to the president's legacy."
Having been essentially “cut out of the process” since the humiliating rollout of Healthcare.gov and conspicuously missing last week from the president’s 7.1 million enrollees victory lap celebrations, Sebelius finally got the ax, announcing her resignation Thursday. Her replacement: another bureaucrat with no real background in healthcare policy, Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews.
Sebelius was appointed to the Cabinet in 2009 in what many have interpreted as a massive thank you for her crucial endorsement of Obama in the 2008 primary process. Though a Democrat, Sebelius had served successfully as the governor of Kansas, a largely conservative state, from 2003 to 2009. However, after having had three years and an exorbitant budget, Sebelius proved an ineffective manager of Healthcare.gov’s technical development.
In the midst of the tumultuous rollout, Obama insisted that he would not fire Sebelius for fear of adding any further complications; however, as The Washington Post notes, Sebelius was largely “cut out of the process” after the national faceplant of the exchange site in the first few months. Though Sebelius told The Huffington Post just eleven days before announcing her resignation that she would stay until November, the beleaguered HHS secretary abruptly stepped down Thursday.
In its report on her supposedly self-initiated resignation, The New York Times emphasized Sebelius’ great transgression, damaging the president's legacy:
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.
While Sebelius exits “battered and blamed,” the Obama administration continues its Obamacare 2.0 campaign, hoping that a new point-woman will help turn around the law’s persistently dismal poll numbers. The new hire, Burwell, 48, is a younger, Ivy-league replacement, touting a Harvard and Oxford education, but with no substantive background in healthcare.