By Stephen Schneck and Jennifer Butler
Catholic University of America
Faith in Public Life
As the Senate takes up confirmation proceedings for Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee Kathleen Sebelius this week, hardcore partisans are gearing up for a fight that will fail to block her confirmation. But they may succeed in perpetuating polarization that could threaten reform of our broken health care system.
These hearings come at a moment of both crisis and opportunity for health care and for our political life. Consensus is emerging around the need for fundamental reform as costs soar and the ranks of the uninsured approach 50,000,000. At the same time, pro-choice and pro-life leaders are working together to advance common ground goals that promote women’s health and children’s welfare and reduce the number of abortions.
Those who seek to reduce Governor Sebelius’ confirmation to point-scoring on tax mistakes and abortion “politics as usual” squander the opportunity for cooperation and reconciliation that can promote common ground and the common good. Her record as a legislator, administrator and governor demonstrates her ability to improve health care for all, and reveals a pragmatic, effective leader who can work with leaders of both parties (whether pro-life or pro-choice) to improve public health. Moreover, in Sebelius the Obama administration is presenting a candidate for HHS who is committed to making measurable progress in reducing the number of abortions.
We have both joined dozens of pro-choice and pro-life Christian leaders in welcoming Sebelius’ nomination because she has displayed the kind of leadership that can lessen the division that paralyzes so much of our politics. Pro-choice and pro-life religious leaders who value results over rhetoric do not need to agree on every political candidate or appointee, and opposition to Sebelius’ appointment does not automatically render one an implacable culture warrior. But the time has come to honor progress over posturing. The broader dialogue on the healthcare crisis should not be held hostage to the culture war. Too much is at stake to let litmus tests dictate our politics.