WASHINGTON Departing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who took withering criticism over the botched rollout of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, is considering a run for the U.S. Senate in Kansas, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
Sebelius, a former Kansas governor, is weighing overtures from Democrats who want her to run for the Senate seat occupied by Republican Pat Roberts, the newspaper said, quoting unidentified Democrats. It quoted one person said to have spoken directly with Sebelius as saying that she was thinking about the idea, but it was too soon to say how serious she was about it.
Sebelius, who announced her resignation last week, is staying on the job until her successor, White House budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell, is confirmed by the Senate.
A representative of the HHS declined to comment on The New York Times story.
A run for the Senate would be a bold move in a solidly Republican state after Sebelius oversaw the introduction last October of the policy known as Obamacare, becoming a lightning rod for critics of the health insurance reform law.
Republicans have made problems with the health care law, which they view as a step towards socialized medicine, as the central theme of their campaign to wrest control of the Senate away from Democrats and strengthen their grip on the House of Representatives.
The New York Times said the Democrats urging Sebelius to run view her as their best hope of winning against Roberts, 77, who has served four terms. Her chances could improve if Roberts is defeated in a primary election challenge by a more conservative candidate, radiologist Milton Wolf, who is backed by the Tea Party movement.
Sebelius would have until June 2 to decide, the deadline for filing for the primary. Before Sebelius joined the Obama administration, she was a popular two-term Democratic governor in Kansas, re-elected with 58 percent of the vote in 2006.
The opening of health insurance marketplaces was plagued by computer problems that stymied access for millions of people. Eventually, the problems were mostly remedied and 7.5 million people signed up for coverage. Sebelius was regular fodder for jokes on late night talk and comedy television shows for months.
In an interview with the New York Times last week, Sebelius said she wished she could take "all the animosity" toward Obamacare with her when she departs.
(Reporting by David Lawder and David Morgan; Editing by Grant McCool)