Commentary: Sebelius shouldn't be sidetracked by tax error

This editorial appeared in The Wichita Eagle.

The revelation that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius recently paid nearly $8,000 in back taxes overshadowed her first of two Senate hearings this week and provided regrettable fodder for talk show hosts.

But the early feedback where it counts – on Capitol Hill – was that her nomination to be secretary of Health and Human Services remained on track, as it should, despite her self-described "unintentional errors." She's a strong choice for an important job that urgently needs to be filled.

Besides, Sebelius made a "good-faith effort" to pay her taxes initially and the relatively minor errors "were pretty well taken care of," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which will grill Sebelius today on her way to a Senate confirmation vote.

Tax flap aside, the Democrat's path to confirmation was smoothed Tuesday by the grace and good will of Kansas Republicans such as former Sen. Bob Dole, who introduced her and sat by her for nearly the entire 2 1/2-hour hearing. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., also spoke on her behalf, and former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker sent an endorsement.

In her opening remarks and answers, Sebelius hit the points that the Senate and American people needed to hear about what kind of HHS secretary she would be. She vowed to crack down on unsafe food and Medicaid and Medicare fraud, and signaled that she'd be as consumer-focused as she was as Kansas' insurance commissioner and as reform-minded as she has been as governor.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Wichita Eagle.