One of President Barack Obama’s top cabinet members could lose her job over offhand comments at a gay rights rally in North Carolina in February.
The Hatch Act bars federal employees from campaigning while on the job. The Office of Special Counsel said yesterday that Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Health & Human Services Dept., crossed the line when she advocated for Obama’s re-election at the Human Rights Campaign event in Charlotte over the winter, according to the Federal Times.
The OSC did not recommend any specific punishment, saying Obama will decide whether Sebelius should be punished, fired or let off. The last high-profile Hatch Act violator, General Services Administration head Lurita Doan, was fired by President George W. Bush in 2008 after being found to have stumped for Republicans while on the job.
"One of the imperatives is to make sure that we not only come here in Charlotte to present the nomination to the president, but we make sure that in November he continues to be president for another four years because this effort has just begun," Sebelius said at the HRC gala, according to the newspaper. "It’s hugely important to make sure that we re-elect the president and elect a Democratic governor here in North Carolina."
Sebelius said she regrets her "off script" and "off-hand statements" in a letter to OSC special counsel Carolyn Lerner, the Federal Times reported, but maintained that she shouldn’t be punished.
"[I]t seems somewhat unfair to conclude that, as a result of my off-hand statements, I used my official title for political purposes," Sebelius wrote. "If there was a violation of the Hatch Act based on the use of my title, I believe the violation was technical and minor. … These are not the type of violations that the Hatch Act is intended to address."
Bachmann: Med-tech tax cost 300 St. Jude Medical workers their jobs
St. Jude Medical (NYSE:STJ) can deny it, but Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) is convinced that the 300 layoffs the medical device company announced last month are a direct result of the medical device tax set to go into effect next year.
"Medical device excise tax in #Obamacare cost 300 St. Jude Medical Inc. employees their jobs," Bachmann wrote on Twitter yesterday, linking to an op-ed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She’s fighting Democrat Jim Graves to retain her seat.
Texas woman to pioneer double arm transplant
Katy Hayes, who lost all her limbs 2 years ago, will be the first patient to undergo a double arm transplant above the elbow. Surgeons at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston will attempt to surgically attach 2 donor arms. Hays lost her limbs from a rare infection she caught after giving birth to her 3rd child.
Uninsured numbers fall for the 1st time in 5 years
The number of people without health insurance fell for the first time since 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with 48.6 million Americans uninsured during 2011, compared to 49.9 million in 2010. The rate of uninsured dropped to 15.7% from 16.3% – the biggest drop since 1999.
FDA issues new internal dispute guidelines
The FDA’s Center for Devices & Radiological Health issued new guidelines for resolving internal disputes for "all differences of professional opinion within CDRH."
Disputes within the watchdog agency’s medical device arm grabbed national headlines in 2009 and again this summer with the revelation of an FDA probe of 5 dissident scientists that may have broken the law when it resulted in the inadvertent public disclosure of confidential information.