GOP senator rails against Sebelius absence in hearing

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 SebeliusIRS Tax Day glitch exposes antiquated tech infrastructure Trump administration's reforms could make welfare work again Pro-dependency advocates miss the mark in attacking Kansas welfare reform MORE Wednesday for not appearing at an appropriations subcommittee hearing on her department's budget.

Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranTrump VA pick faces challenge to convince senators he’s ready for job Overnight Finance: Senate repeals auto-lending guidance, shattering precedent with vote | House passes IRS reform bills | Senate GOP fears tax cut sequel Senate repeals auto-loan guidance in precedent-shattering vote 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 HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinDem Senator open to bid from the left in 2020 Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Trump should require federal contractors to follow the law 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.