(Photo: AP / Alex Brandon)
The Senate Finance Committee approved Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as the Secretary for Health and Human Services Tuesday.
The panel voted 15-8 to send the pro-abortion governor's nomination to the full Senate for consideration. The vote took place during a break session in Tuesday's roundtable discussion on Reforming America’s Health Care Delivery System.
"The divided committee vote on Gov. Sebelius's nomination reflects growing grassroots opposition to Gov. Sebelius as questions continue to mount regarding her failure to disclose deep financial ties to late-term abortionist George Tiller," said Family Research Council Action President Tony Perkins.
"In the last few days, our supporters have sent nearly 40,000 emails to the Senate urging opposition to the Sebelius nomination. She has yet to fully answer the question that the American people have a right to know: Did Gov. Sebelius deliberately hide these ties to the abortion industry from Congress and the country at large?"
Republican members of the Finance Committee were critical of Sebelius' ties to late-term abortion doctor George Tiller, with only two, Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts and Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, voting in her favor, as reported by The Associated Press.
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, top ranking Republican of the committee, joined seven other members of the GOP in voting against her nomination. Last week, he said her misstating of campaign contributions from Tiller was a "bombshell."
Arizona Sen. John Kyl addressed the committee and expressed concern over her underreporting how much money she received from Tiller, who was acquitted last month of charges of illegal abortions but now faces an investigation by the state medical board.
Sebelius initially reported in a written statement to the Finance Committee that she received $12,450 from 1994 to 2001 from Tiller, but later amended her answer saying she received a total of $36,900 from Tiller. The admission was made only after the discrepancy was exposed in campaign finance documents circulated by Operation Rescue, a Kansas-based pro-life activist group, and then reported by the AP.
Over the past week, pro-life advocates also pointed to fundraising a letter signed Tiller, stating that he personally contributed $200,000 to ProKanDo, a political action committee dedicated to defeating Sebelius' opponent in the 2002 Kansas gubernatorial race.
These revelations follow an admission by Sebelius earlier this month that she paid nearly $8,000 in three years worth of back taxes and interest because of improper deductions.
"Sebelius received more negative votes than we expected in the committee," said Operation Rescue president Troy Newman.
"That vote is reflective of the deep division there is concerning her nomination, given her links to the most radical late-term abortionist in the country," he stated Tuesday. "Most people find her unwillingness to tell the truth about her connections to Tiller very troubling. It calls into question her integrity and her judgment."
As head of the Department of Health and Human Services, Sebelieus would oversee the federal government's largest domestic department, which has 65,000 employees and a budget of $730 billion. The HHS department hosts Medicare and Medicaid programs for the poor and elderly and the Food and Drug Administration.
If confirmed by the Senate to the HHS secretary post, Sebelius would also help lead President Barack Obama's plan to reform the healthcare system that would make government-run health insurance available as an alternative to private coverage.
In response to news that Sebelius' cleared the committee vote, Concerned Women for America president Wendy Wright urged senators to reject her nomination, saying "her deceptive answers to senators' questions and her political favors to campaign contributors while endangering patients makes her unfit to run the Department of Health and Human Services."
Wright questioned her how she could be trusted to oversee the nation's health care system when she put patients at risk to benefit her donors.
Montana Sen. Max Baucus, the Finance Committee Democratic chairman, said he would "push for immediate action by the full Senate so that she can finally roll up her sleeves and get down to helping out on this critical work of reforming the health care system," according to AP.
Aside from discrepancies in her financial reports to the committee, pro-life advocates have voiced concern over her track record in life issues as governor.
Many found her vetoes on several pro-life measures troubling. The legislation she vetoed would have guaranteed the safety of abortion centers that were operating under medically dangerous conditions and enforced Kansas' parental notification law.
"If confirmed, the pro-abortion governor would be in a position to profoundly influence federal and state policies on abortion, rights of conscience, bioethics and end-of-life issues. She also would be instrumental in distributing federal funding to abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood," said Focus on the Family Action, which called supporters into action Monday to block her confirmation before the full Senate.
Other pro-life advocates who have stated their opposition to Sebelius' nomination to the HHS post includes Susan B. Anthony List, Americans for Tax Reform, Focus on the Family and American Family Association.