Sebelius confirmed, right wastes time

SEBELIUS CONFIRMED, RIGHT WASTES TIME…. It didn’t quite generate national attention, but conservative opposition to Kathleen Sebelius’ HHS nomination was pretty intense. Especially in the religious right movement, conservatives rallied about as aggressively as they could to derail the former Kansas governor’s confirmation.

It didn’t come close to working.

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of health and human services on Tuesday, allowing President Obama to fill the last vacancy in his cabinet with a seasoned politician who will take charge of the fight against swine flu.

The vote was 65 to 31. Among the nine Republicans who voted for Ms. Sebelius was Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who announced on Tuesday that he was becoming a Democrat.

Besides directing federal efforts against swine flu, Ms. Sebelius will lead the administration’s campaign for universal health insurance.

Looking over the roll call, Sebelius enjoyed the support of every Democrat on the floor at the time, both independents, and six Republicans, including both of the GOP senators from Sebelius’ home state of Kansas.

And what does the conservative movement have to show for its efforts? Not much, other than maybe reinforcing a feckless reputation. This seems to be a bad habit for the right’s activists.

Looking over the last several weeks, these same groups and leaders who pulled out the stops to defeat Sebelius, also mounted ambitious campaigns to take down the nominations of Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, and Deputy Attorney General David Ogden. All were approved rather easily with bipartisan support. Their efforts at character assassination have been a little more effective in Dawn Johnsen’s case, but her confirmation appears likely, too.

The conservative movement may not realize it just yet, but no one seems to care when they launch hard-hitting campaigns to derail Obama administration nominees. In Sebelius’ case, their attacks may have actually backfired — the right forced delays in the HHS confirmation, which only made Republicans look worse given the H1N1 public health emergency.

Perhaps the right can reevaluate their entire approach? Pick their battles a little more effectively?

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