WASHINGTON (AP) - The head of the Republican Party called on
President Barack Obama to withdraw Kathleen Sebelius' nomination as
health secretary unless she answers more questions on abortion.
Senators scheduled a final vote on Sebelius for early next week
and she was expected to win confirmation.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said
Thursday that Sebelius, the Democratic governor of Kansas, has not
been forthcoming about her ties to a Kansas abortion doctor, George
"Significant questions remain about Gov. Kathleen Sebelius'
evolving relationship with a late-term abortion doctor as well as
about her position on the practice of late-term abortions," Steele
said in a statement. "If Gov. Sebelius and the Obama
administration are unwilling to answer these questions, President
Obama should withdraw her nomination."
The White House declined to comment. A spokesman for Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., dismissed Steele's complaints.
"This is nothing more than a baseless attack from someone
desperate to stake a claim as the leader of the leaderless
Republicans and get right with the right-wing of his party," said
Reid spokesman Jim Manley.
Steele's statement came after Republicans blocked immediate
action Thursday morning when Reid called for a vote on Sebelius.
Thursday night, though, Reid announced a deal with Republicans to
hold the vote on Tuesday, with a 60-vote margin required for
approval after six to eight hours of debate. Democrats were
confident they had the votes to prevail.
Sebelius was approved by the Senate Finance Committee this week
with just two of 10 GOP votes. Several Republicans, including the
top committee Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, raised concerns
about her initial failure to disclose to senators how much campaign
money she got from Tiller.
When the discrepancy became public Sebelius acknowledged getting
an additional $23,000 from Tiller and his abortion clinic beyond
the $12,450 she initially reported. She apologized and said it was
an inadvertent error.
That happened after Sebelius breezed through her Finance
Committee confirmation hearing early this month without a single
senator raising the topic of abortion. Republicans had some cover
on the issue because Sebelius was supported by both her home-state
GOP senators, including Sen. Sam Brownback, a strong abortion
But since then opposition from anti-abortion activists - and
pressure on Republican senators - has grown.
Sebelius told the Finance Committee that she personally opposes
abortion, but she also has a long record in Kansas politics of
supporting abortion rights. She's repeatedly vetoed legislation
sought by anti-abortion groups to impose more regulations on
abortion clinics and rewrite the state's restrictions on late-term
Just Thursday, in fact, Sebelius vetoed a closely watched
measure that would have required doctors performing late-term
abortions to report additional information to the state. She
questioned whether the bill could withstand a court challenge and
suggested some provisions could lead to "intimidation" of health
Steele, meanwhile, has had problems of his own on abortion as
he's sought to firm up his conservative bona fides since becoming
GOP chairman earlier this year. Last month he insisted he was
"pro-life" after a magazine quoted him as saying abortion was
"an individual choice."
Sebelius is the final Cabinet nominee awaiting confirmation. She
was Obama's second pick for the HHS job after the president's first
choice, former Sen. Tom Daschle, withdrew over unpaid taxes.