Sebelius faces tough questions on healthcare during confirmation hearing for HHS post

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Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D) told lawmakers Tuesday that she would not rule out using the budget reconciliation process as a way to pass healthcare reform legislation. She answered questions during the Senate confirmation hearing for the position of secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

"There is an interest in not taking any tools off the table prematurely but being very dedicated to a bipartisan process and a bipartisan bill," Sebelius told members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, when asked about the controversial reconciliation process.

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), who led the governor down that line of questioning, likened the use of reconciliation in passing healthcare to a declaration of war, reports The reconciliation process would reduce the number of Senate votes needed to pass a measure from 60 to 51, which would give Democrats, who currently hold a 58-seat majority, an advantage in passing their own legislation. Republicans generally oppose the idea.

Sebelius was also grilled on her support for a public insurance plan. Former presidential hopeful and still-Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) framed the proposition as a "government-run health insurance plan," while the governor endorsed a public option in conjunction and competition with private health insurance plans. Sebelius is President Obama's second pick for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.