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Sebelius is out, but don’t expect Republicans to embrace health law

BY Domenico Montanaro, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  April 11, 2014 at 9:14 AM EDT
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget, is expected to lead the Health and Human Services department. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget, is expected to lead the Health and Human Services department. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Sebelius is out, but GOP opposition to health law will remain
  • The Democratic effort to mobilize minority voters
  • Ryan budget passes House – of Republicans against, more thought it didn’t go far enough
  • Lots of 2016 travel

A period on the first chapter of the health-care saga: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who became a favorite Republican target, will resign following the end of the health care open-enrollment period. She told the president of her decision to leave after the end of open enrollment in early March and said she was confident the administration would hit its sign-up goal of 7 million, a White House official told Morning Line. Sebelius said at a Capitol Hill hearing Thursday that 7.5 million had signed up. Sebelius will be replaced by Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell. President Obama will make it official at an 11 a.m. event at the White House with both women. Many thought Sebelius would be out sooner given all the criticism of the problematic website rollout. Obama could have let her go earlier, but the administration probably didn’t want ANOTHER bad story in the midst of the rollout. Weather the storm and fix it was more the idea. The AP writes, “The White House is eager to see if the poisonous atmosphere might give way to more pragmatic efforts aimed at fixing problems with the nation’s newest social program.” That seems highly unlikely in this election year with Republicans running against the law as their main message. In fact, it highlights just how pivotal the 2014 midterms and the 2016 presidential election are. If Republicans take back the Senate and retain the House in 2014, health law funding could be decimated. Imagine what the GOP could do to the law if it is able to win the White House and take control of all three chambers in 2016. By the way, even if Republicans win the Senate in the fall, Democrats have to hope to mitigate those losses to down only one or two, because 2016 is a more favorable landscape to them but they can’t start down TOO many.

Obama speaks on voting rights: President Obama speaks at 4:10 p.m. ET in New York at the National Action Network’s annual convention, where he’s expected to talk about voting rights. Following up on his speech at the civil rights summit in Austin yesterday, “The President will focus on some of those steps,” a separate White House official told Morning Line. “The President will make the case that every American should have the chance to know their elections are being administered fairly and efficiently, and that every eligible citizen who wants to vote should have the chance to. He will also reiterate his view that we should be working to make it easier, not harder, to vote and will address some of the barriers that have recently been erected that make it more difficult for Americans to exercise one of our most fundamental rights as citizens.” This is another coordinated Democratic effort to get out a key constituency that sees a drop in turnout during midterms. First, it was equal pay and appealing to women; now, voter access, a key issue for minority voters who feel targeted by Republican efforts in various states to implement stricter voter ID laws, which Republicans say is about preventing voter fraud. The Democratic National Committee, which hired four of what it calls “voter expansion staff,” is now working to elect secretaries of state who want to loosen voter ID laws (like what happened this week in Illinois). The DNC’s Donna Brazile outlined some of the efforts and states Democrats see as problematic.

Ryan budget passes the House: Paul Ryan’s budget again narrowly passed the House in a 219 to 205 vote, per PBS NewsHour’s Quinn Bowman. It isn’t heading anywhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But looking at the 12 Republicans who voted against, more of them were opposed to it because it didn’t go far enough than were in competitive races in places Democrats could win. The ones in competitive races: David Jolly, who won that close FL-13 special election, New York’s Chris Gibson and New Jersey’s Frank LoBiondo. That’s it. Colorado’s Mike Coffman and Cory Gardner (running for the Senate) voted for it. It also included all three Republican members running for the Senate in Georgia, who don’t think the budget goes far enough. One of those, Rep. Jack Kingston, has voted for every Ryan budget in the past. That should tell you a lot about how few competitive seats there are and how confident Republicans are that they will keep control of the House after this midterm.

2016 — Rand ramps up: Ryan hits the road Friday, talking at an Iowa GOP dinner, which is sure to stoke 2016 speculation. Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and even Donald Trump will all speak in New Hampshire tomorrow at the so-called “Freedom Summit,” which is put on by Citizens United and Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-backed group spending millions against Democrats in competitive Senate races. But check out, as WMUR’s James Pindell reports, what Rand Paul is doing to build up relationships with local officials in New Hampshire. He’s not just speaking at a confab; he’s helping local groups raise money. He’s doing two fundraisers Saturday. Cruz will also raise money for one of the same groups April 27. Nothing says running for president much more than that. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton continues her West Coast speaking tour. She’ll make remarks by satellite before a health care group in San Diego.

Quote of the day: “What was that a bat? Was that a bat? … Thank goodness she didn’t play softball like I did.” — Hillary Clinton after dodging a shoe thrown by a heckler at a speech in Las Vegas. Clinton’s dodge was a bit delayed and not quite as good as George W. Bush, who seemed to embrace the challenge while in Iraq.

LINE ITEMS

  • The federal government posted its smallest March budget deficit in 14 years.
  • In a Washington Post op-ed, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and former chair Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., explain the origins of the committee’s report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation programs and urge for it to be made public.
  • Utah became the first state to defend its ban on gay marriage at a federal appellate level, during a spirited session at the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver Thursday.
  • Following a similar request from congressional Republicans, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called for Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La., to resign Thursday.
  • The truck is back. Former Massachusetts GOP Sen. Scott Brown, who’s now running in New Hampshire, will release his first TV ad Monday.
  • Democrats are investing unprecedented levels to raise African-American turnout to presidential levels in states where Democratic incumbent senators are vulnerable.
  • Some of those endangered Dems may be holding their cash in reserve, waiting to deploy TV ads until closer to the election, and hoping Senate Majority PAC and the like will provide enough air cover against Americans for Prosperity in the meantime.
  • Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, introduced two pieces of legislation late yesterday that would give the District of Columbia budget and legislative autonomy from the government. The move was taken in part to keep a promise made to D.C. Shadow Sen. Paul Strauss.
  • A 10-minute clip from Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel’s days as a radio talk show host is garnering national attention because of the provocative remarks he makes. McDaniel is one of the stronger GOP challengers this cycle, taking on Sen. Thad Cochran.
  • Republicans in the Missouri state House are scrambling to find four more GOP votes ahead of a Monday vote to get a Right to Work initiative on the ballot in November. Twenty-four states have passed Right to Work.
  • The U.S. Sentencing Commission passed a recommendation Thursday that would reduce the sentences for up to 70 percent of all drug offenders. The recommendations will go into effect November 1, unless Congress votes to stop the amendment.
  • The Washington Post’s Marc Fisher reports that this year the federal government will be using thousands of Americans’ tax refunds to help pay off any debt their parents have incurred.
  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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