GOP senator rails against Sebelius absence in hearing

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A Republican senator railed against Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusFighting for assisted living facilities The chaotic fight for ObamaCare California exchange CEO: Insurers ‘throwing ObamaCare under the bus’ MORE Wednesday for not appearing at an appropriations subcommittee hearing on her department's budget.

Sen. Jerry MoranJerry MoranSenate panel approves lifting Cuba travel ban Boost in Afghan visas blocked in Senate Senate contradicts itself on Gitmo MORE (R), the subcommittee's ranking member, spent five minutes criticizing Sebelius's absence at the start of the hearing. He represents Kansas, where Sebelius was governor prior to her tenure at HHS.

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"My colleagues tell me that no one can remember a cabinet secretary not appearing before this subcommittee," Moran said. "I want to make clear from my perspective that the Appropriations Committee is deserving of the respect of a cabinet secretary."

He continued, "I would expect the head of any department to appear before the committee … I think [Sebelius] should be here and I'm disappointed she declined to appear before our panel today."

The subcommittee chairman, Sen. Tom HarkinTom HarkinDo candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? The Hill's 12:30 Report Mark Mellman: Parsing the primary processes MORE (D-Iowa), defended Sebelius and said she was never formally invited to testify on Wednesday. He also noted that Sebelius has announced she will resign from HHS once her replacement is confirmed.

"Budget hearings, these kinds of budget hearings, look forward. They look at what is coming next year. Secretary Sebelius is not going to be here next year," Harkin said.

HHS division heads, including a top official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, attended the hearing as witnesses. Harkin said this was his intention after Sebelius announced her resignation.

The decision means that Sebelius is almost guaranteed not to face lawmakers as a witness before she leaves office. Republicans have previously jumped at opportunities to grill her about ObamaCare's rollout.