So Long, Kathleen

It isn’t getting a lot of attention, but the country is currently amid an important transition for the very important position of America’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, a job that now has extraordinary impact upon this nation.

The outgoing secretary is, of course, Kathleen Sebelius. And she isn’t going lightly. Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is ensuring that she hears some gunfire in her ears. Issa is chair of the House Oversight Committee. Last week he warned Sebelius that she could face a vote of contempt of Congress if she and her department continue to refuse to comply with a subpoena issued over six months ago regarding the disastrous rollout of Obamacare.

The numerous technological glitches and embarrassments involved in the rollout prompted Issa and other Republicans to seek documents to try to uncover the underlying reasons. Issa’s committee fixed an October 24, 2013 deadline for the department. The deadline came and went. Issa then issued a subpoena six days later, on October 30, which HHS promised to comply with.

By Issa’s reckoning, that compliance hasn’t been very compliant. He has accused Sebelius of obstruction. “The Department’s substantial delay in production, combined with its improper redactions, has obstructed the Committee’s investigation,” said Issa. “Should the Department continue to refuse to produce all documents in un-redacted form as required by the instructions in the subpoena issued on October 30, 2013, I will have no alternative but to consider the full range of options to enforce the subpoena.”

Thus, the threat of contempt of Congress.

Meanwhile, as Sebelius deals with this, her replacement, Sylvia Burwell, is sitting through confirmation hearings elsewhere on Capitol Hill. She faces the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the first of two Senate committees that will hold hearings on her nomination.

Readers at this site probably shrug off much of this as politics as usual, and wonder what it has to do with the Roman Catholic Church. Well, maybe not a whole lot, but the bigger picture here is significant and, I think, has a compelling Catholic component.

Kathleen Sebelius will be remembered not only as Barack Obama’s longtime HSS Secretary, but also as the spearhead of Obamacare. For that, many liberals will remember her fondly.

    Sebelius, Obama, and Burwell

As for Catholics, they ought to remember Sebelius as a lifetime/pro-choice Catholic whose terrible positions advancing abortion in Kansas – where she was governor – were magnified on the national stage as Obama’s point-person for the HHS mandate.

It is a perverse but fitting capstone to Sebelius’ public work that she became Barack Obama’s right-hand woman in forcing religious believers of all stripes to fund contraception and abortion drugs. Kathleen Sebelius doesn’t care if you’re a Mormon or a Mennonite, a priest or a nun, Hobby Lobby or the Little Sisters of the Poor. She wants you to support abortion services, directly or indirectly.

The HHS mandate is Kathleen Sebelius’ baby. She demanded it.

According to the New York Times and Politico, it was Sebelius and Valerie Jarrett, Barack Obama’s closest adviser, who championed the mandate from the outset. They did so even as the likes of Vice President Joe Biden and Obama Chief of Staff Bill Daley (both Catholics) warned the White House to carefully consider the backlash from the Catholic Church. Biden and Daley lost out to Jarrett and Sebelius.

Because of the HHS mandate, Kathleen Sebelius’ legacy includes one of the most anti-Catholic pieces of policy legislation and religious discrimination in the history of this country. That is quite a legacy for a Catholic public official.

Now, Sebelius slowly steps aside for the incoming HHS secretary, Sylvia Burwell, who had been the Obama White House’s director of the Office of Management and Budget. The media immediately hailed Burwell for her brilliance and competence, both of which stand in obvious contrast to the Obamacare website that Sebelius championed. Even then, only in Washington could someone who has presided over a record budget deficit (as Burwell has) be hailed for brilliance and competence.

What the media is not saying, however, is that Burwell is a committed yes-woman singularly committed to carrying out the boss’ wishes. That being the case, I expect her to be just as committed as Kathleen Sebelius was in carrying the torch for the HHS mandate. That’s not good news.

But whatever Burwell’s doings, I can say this much that gives me a measure of relief as a Catholic: At least she isn’t Catholic. At least we’ll no longer have a Catholic who is the point-person and poster girl for this ignoble and ignominious cause. I don’t know if that is much solace, but maybe it makes the ordeal slightly less painful.

As for the unborn children whose lives will be snuffed out at taxpayer expense, the pain continues. And for that ordeal, Kathleen Sebelius, lifetime Roman Catholic, will always shoulder her share of responsibility.

Paul G. Kengor is an author and professor of political science at Grove City College, a private Christian liberal arts college in Grove City, Pennsylvania. He is the executive director of the Institute for Faith and Freedom, a Grove City College conservative think tank/policy center. Among his books are The Devil and Karl Marx and A Pope and a President, about the relationship between John Paul II and Ronald Reagan.