Kathleen Sebelius won Senate confirmation Tuesday as the nation’s Health and Human Services secretary, thrusting the former Kansas governor into the middle of the public health emergency involving swine flu.
The 65-31 vote came after Democrats urged quick action so that Sebelius could get to work leading the federal response to the flu outbreak.
“We find ourselves in the midst of a global crisis,” Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) said. “What we’ve been missing in all of this is the head of the Health and Human Services Department.”
Sixty votes in the 100-seat Senate were necessary to avert a filibuster. Some Republicans had objected to Sebelius’ stance on abortion -- she supports a woman’s right to choose -- and her initial underreporting of campaign contributions from a doctor who performs late-term abortions.
Immediately after the vote, Sebelius, 60, resigned as governor in Kansas and headed to Washington. She drove directly from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to the White House, where she took the oath of office.
“We wanted to swear her in right away because we’ve got a significant public health challenge that requires her immediate attention,” President Obama said, standing with his newest Cabinet secretary.
Sebelius received a briefing from Obama’s Homeland Security advisor, John Brennan, and other officials dealing with the first domestic test of the administration, which turns 100 days old today.