President Barack Obama praised Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius on Friday as she announced her resignation after five years in his administration.
Speaking in the Rose Garden to a cheering audience of cabinet secretaries and administration staff, Obama said Sebelius had "earned" the right to move on to other opportunities, acknowledging the turbulent rollout of the health care reform law and the toll it took on both he and Sebelius. But at the end, he said, they have prevailed.
"She's got bumps. I've got bumps, bruises," Obama said. "But under Kathleen's leadership, her team at HHS turned the corner, got it fixed, got the job done, and the final score speaks for itself." Sebelius told lawmakers Thursday that more than 7.5 million Americans had enrolled in private insurance through the Affordable Care Act's exchanges, beating targets.
Sebelius called her work health reform "the most meaningful work I've ever been a part of," thanking the president for giving her the opportunity to serve. "Critics and supporters alike are benefiting from his law," she said.
Obama announced his intent to nominate Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to replace Sebelius. She was confirmed unanimously by the Senate to that post last year, and Obama called on the Senate to swiftly confirm her to the HHS post.
"In the year since she arrived, the deficit has plunged by more than $400 billion," Obama said, praising Burwell as "a rock, a steady hand on the wheel" for her handling of last year's government shutdown.