Kathleen Sebelius is resigning as Secretary of Health and Human Services, bringing to an end six contentious months during which the President’s biggest policy achievement, the Affordable Care Act, became a political albatross for Democrats.
The New York Times reports that President Obama accepted Sebelius’s resignation earlier this week. He intends to nominate the current director of the Office of Management and Budget, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, to replace Sebelius.
As recently as last week, some suggested the end of the first enrollment period was the moment when she could be let go with “minimum drama and maximum benefit.” According to the Times, Sebelius herself agreed. She “approached Mr. Obama and began a series of conversations about her future” and suggested the end of the enrollment period might be “an opportunity for change.”
Republicans began calling for Sebelius’s ouster last October when it became clear that the launch of the Obamacare exchanges, overseen by HHS, was a disaster. In early November, 10 Republican senators sent a letter to the President urging him to ask for her resignation. At the time, the President stood by Sebelius.
The rollout of Obamacare in October was supposed to be a triumph for Democrats, the moment when Americans would stop basing their opinions of the law on what they had heard about it and start basing them on the benefits it provided. But the launch of the health exchanges proved to be first a technical and then a political disaster.
On its first day, the federal exchange only manged to sign up six people. At first, the White House blamed everything on unexpected traffic. Next, the President began saying the law was more than just a website and encouraging people to consider paper applications. But by early November, the scope of the problem was such that the President was forced to offer an apology and a promise he would have it fixed by the end of November.
President Obama was also hit with several hard political knocks as many Americans began to realize that his promises about keeping plans anddoctors–made frequently before the law was passed–were not actuallyguaranteed. In December, Politifact named the former promise its “Lie of the Year.”
The White House did get the site running more smoothly by December, but by that point its popularity had sunk. According to Gallup, Obamacare’s approval hit a series of new lows shortly after the October rollout. As of February, the program was 10 points underwater, 51 percent disapproval and 41 percent approval.