WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who administration officials say is the leading contender for U.S. health secretary, said on Monday she had not discussed the job yet with President Barack Obama.
Sebelius was in Washington this weekend and Monday to attend a governors’ conference, and U.S. media had speculated that the occasion would be the perfect opportunity for Obama to meet with his fellow Democrat and talk about the health secretary post.
Sebelius told Reuters on the sidelines of the governors’ conference on Monday that she had not spoken to Obama about her replacing former health secretary designee Tom Daschle, a former U.S. Senate Democratic leader, who bowed out because of tax problems.
“There have been a lot of great conversations with him (Obama). There have been no specific discussions about HHS (Health and Human Services),” she said.
“I don’t speculate about new jobs. I love the job I have,” she said.
A U.S. official said last week that Sebelius was among the top tier of candidates under consideration, but no decision had been made.
Health care is expected to be a big theme for Obama this week as he prepares to deliver a speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday and unveils his first budget on Thursday.
Many analysts expect Obama will signal his intent to push for the overhaul of the healthcare system that he promised during his campaign for the White House.
However, he must overcome skepticism in Washington that a push for such a costly initiative can succeed at a time when the country faces the immediate challenges of a deepening recession and financial meltdown and a burgeoning budget deficit.
Reporting by Ross Colvin, editing by Patricia Zengerle