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She was confirmed by the Senate 96-0 for her current post last year, and Obama said with a smile, "I’m assuming not much has changed since that time."
As budget chief, Burwell is already familiar with the details of health care programs and how they work. Budget experts in both political camps agree that health care is the main driver of long-term growth in federal spending.
As she announced her resignation Friday, Sebelius called her work on the health care overhaul the "cause of my life."
"We are at the front lines of a long-overdue national change," she said.
Sebelius has served as Obama’s health and human services chief for five years, and helped steer the sweeping health law through Congress in 2010. But her tenure was marred by complaints from Congress that her department was not upfront about implementation problems. That seemed to be confirmed last October, with the dysfunctional launch of HealthCare.gov.
The problems frayed her close relationship with the White House. West Wing officials said they felt blindsided by the extent of the technical problems and installed a longtime Obama adviser to oversee fixes.
White House officials said Sebelius approached the president about stepping down a month ago, suggesting that the close of the six-month enrollment window marked a natural point for a transition. Officials said she also told the president he would be better served by a secretary who was less of a political target.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a staunch supporter of the health care law, praised Sebelius as a "forceful, effective and essential" secretary.
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