Republican Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts and former Democratic Kansas Governor-now U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius used to have a friendship that dated back decades.
In fact, back in the day, Roberts worked with Sebelius’ father-in-law Keith Sebelius’ congressional campaigns. He also voted for Kathleen Sebelius’ confirmation as HHS secretary in 2009, saying at the time how great it was to have Kansas represented on the presidential cabinet.
Sadly, there is apparently no room for friendship or loyalty in national politics.
Roberts is now leading the charge to force Kathleen Sebelius to resign over problems with the federal government’s health overhaul website. He has also said he regrets supporting her for the post in the first place.
The Republican senator said Friday that the problems demonstrate what he called the secretary’s “gross incompetence.”
HHS officials declined to respond to Roberts’ comments.
The federal government is running online insurance marketplaces for most states, including Kansas. The website is how consumers access them.
Most Americans must buy health insurance or face a tax penalty next year. Online marketplaces were supposed to help them find coverage.
The 78-year-old Roberts has been a critic of the federal health care overhaul championed by President Barack Obama, Sebelius and fellow Democrats. He voted against the compromise measure ending the federal government shutdown, citing as one reason its failure to delay parts of the act. Reps. Tim Huelskamp, Mike Pompeo and Kevin Yoder also voted no.
His long-standing opposition to Obamacare aside, there is likely another reason for his change of heart. He faces a tea party challenge in the GOP primary next year. This comes from Milton Wolf, a 42-year-old Leawood radiologist who also happens to be a second cousin to President Obama.
Wolf has never run for office but has gained attention in conservative and tea party circles for his vocal criticism of the health care reform.
In his years in office, Roberts has stood as a true champion for Kansas and rural America. He has been a voice of moderation and common sense, that is until now.
In order to pander to the ultra-right, he fell in lockstep with the same ilk of conservatives who brought our government to a senseless screeching halt.
Does he feel threatened by his competition?
Perhaps, rather than betraying the middle-of-the-road base that has long been his bread and butter, he should take the high ground and separate himself from his challenger.
That is an essential part of the electoral system. Voters are given a choice to pick from a variety of candidates based on their views.
Instead, Roberts has opted to homogenize the race.