Sebelius Closer to Confirmation as HHS Sec

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A divided Senate committee has voted to advance Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in her quest to become Health and Human Services secretary.

The 15-8 vote came after Republicans voiced concerns over her previously undisclosed campaign donations from controversial late-term abortion doctor George Tiller.

Now, some are saying the divided Senate will likely make Sebelius's job more difficult.

The finance committee was packed, but Sebelius wasn't there. Senators met to hear from medical professionals on how to improve America's health care system while cutting costs.

"We have a little business to conduct that will help health care reform and that's to confirm Kathleen Sebelius secretary of HHS," said Sen. Max Baucus of Montana.

But not before Sen. Jon Kyl, the Republican who specifically asked Sebelius to disclose all funds she's received from Tiller, voiced his oppposition.

"I believe in the right of every American to choose the doctor, the hospital, the health care plan of his or her choice and that no Washington bureaucrat should interfere with that right or substitute the government's judgement for that of a physician," Kyl said.

The Issues at Hand

A divided vote over the woman tasked with reforming health care means she'll likely have a tough time weaving the scope of President Obama's health reforms through the Senate--

especially since the changes are complex and play into ideological differences about the role of government in doctor-patient relationships.

They're changes some Americans don't want and others can't live without. Facing tough votes later this year, lawmakers are trying get a grip on the problem.

"People are using the emergency room as their primary care physician and it's costing us," explained Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell.

According to one witness, 18 percent of Medicare patients are re-admitted within 30 days of a hospital visit.

"Medicare is often seen as a one size fits all, as opposed to being tailored," said Peter Lee of the Pacific Business Group on Health.

Another problem Sebelius faces is a growing shortage of nurses, primary care physicians and surgeons.

The full Senate will vote on her nomination in the coming weeks.

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Jennifer Wishon

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