The nomination of Kathleen Sebelius to Health and Human Services seems pretty official -- the New York Times reports she's accepted the nomination, and though it's sourced anonymously, it's supported by the head of the Democratic Governor's Association sending out congratulations (and by Claire McCaskill tweeting about it? OK, probably not a real confidence builder).
It's been at least a week since Sebelius's name floated to the top of the pool; one assumes there's been a substantial amount of vetting since then, and between the administration and the press corps, nothing has popped up. So this should be an easy confirmation, right? Just a quick breeze through a committee ready to get started on the president's plan.
I still think it will be, but that doesn't mean some folks aren't going to have some fun with this, anyway.
Ben Smith at Politico has a piece up called, "Catholics gird for Sebelius fight." He says, to start, "Kathleen Sebelius's nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services has triggered a bit of a battle between the traditional Catholic right and the newly energized Catholic left."
Only, here's the thing: there's not really a likely fight. The Catholics United group that Smith cites is, as he says, a pro-life Catholic group that just launched the Web site Catholics for Sebelius (who is, herself, Catholic) today, as a pre-emptive strike against any "right-wing organizations" that might attack her.
Now, he also cites a February 19 Catholic League press release against Sebelius's appointment, apparently as evidence that the nomination has "triggered a bit of a battle." But then you have this:
“Congratulations to Governor Sebelius on being nominated to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services,” the Senators said. “It’s an honor for the State of Kansas to have an elected official appointed to the president’s cabinet. We are hopeful Governor Sebelius will be a voice for Kansas and rural America at the Department. We look forward to working with her on issues important to the state including a National Cancer Institute Designation at the University of Kansas Cancer Center.”
The emphasis is mine, and here's the reason: it's hard to claim that a Catholic-on-Catholic fight over the nomination is about to start if Senator Sam Brownback is lauding the appointment. Brownback, whose conversion to Catholicism in 2002 was sponsored by his friend then-Senator Rick Santorum and completed by Opus Dei member Rev. John McCloskey, has near-impeccable credentials as far as Congressional Catholics go. Politico itself reported on a recent controversy in which Brownback's name and signature were used in a fund-raising letter that accused others in Congress of basically being Catholic in name only; though his office has sort of denied involvement, they've never really said they disagree with the message.
There are currently 25 Catholics in the U.S. Senate. Sixteen of these are Democrats, and among them I couldn't find one I thought likely to vote down a Democratic president's Catholic nominee for HHS. Of the remaining nine Republican senators, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a better representative of the "traditional Catholic right" than Sam Brownback. And if he's supporting Sebelius, I'm interested to know who, exactly, Ben Smith thinks might cast a religiously-based vote against her.
I get that writing headlines about a possible religious war is more fun than reporting the ho-hum expected news of Sebelius's appointment -- but who said political blogging was supposed to be all fun and games? Better yet, who said you didn't have to do your homework?