WASHINGTON (USA TOday) -- After a difficult five years shepherding President Obama's signature health care law, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has tendered her resignation, according to two senior administration officials.
Obama accepted the resignation this week and intends to announce that he will nominate Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to replace Sebelius.
He will make the formal announcement at 11 a.m. on Friday at the White House, according to officials, who asked not to be identified so as not to preempt the president.
In recent months, Sebelius has faced heavy scrutiny after the troubled launch of the federal online insurance marketplace, and has been deluged with Republican attacks over the costs of the Affordable Care Act.
During the first difficult weeks of the federal marketplace, Sebelius proved to be an unsteady administration spokeswoman for the health care law.
She struggled mightily in an interview on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart weeks after the launch to explain the problems with the balky HealthCare.gov website. And she set off Republican howls when she tartly referred to those who called for her resignation after the balky launch as "people who I don't work for and who do not want this program to work in the first place." She was even lampooned on Saturday Night Live.
Still, Obama stuck with her, saying that the IT problems could not be blamed on the HHS secretary.
White House officials suggested Sebelius made the decision on her own to resign and was not forced out of the post. She first notified Obama on her intent to step down in early March, according to one White House official.
On Thursday, Sebelius touted to the Senate Finance Committee that 7.5 million people had enrolled in private health insurance plans—500,000 more people more than Congressional Budget Office's initial projections for the first year.
Burwell was confirmed into her current post by the Senate last April. She previously served as president of the Walmart Foundation and spent a decade with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She held a number of senior positions in the Clinton administration, including serving as Clinton's deputy chief of staff.
Sebelius, a former governor from the deep red state of Kansas, had become a punching bag for Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the resignation "is cold comfort to the millions of Americans who were deceived about what (the health care law) would mean for them and their families."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., greeted news of Sebelius's departure with snark.
"I thank Secretary Sebelius for her service. She had an impossible task: nobody can make Obamacare work," Cantor wrote on Twitter.
And Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus called Sebelius' oversight of the rollout of the healthcare law "disastrous."
"The next HHS Secretary will inherit a mess—Americans facing rising costs, families losing their doctors, and an economy weighed down by intrusive regulations," Priebus said. "No matter who is in charge of HHS, ObamaCare will continue to be a disaster and will continue to hurt hardworking Americans.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., offered a stout defense of Sebelius.
"From day one, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has remained laser-focused on a single purpose: to make health care a right, not a privilege, for all Americans," Pelosi said. "Her leadership has been forceful, effective, and essential."
Obama thought Burwell — with a strong reputation inside and outside government as a manager — was an ideal candidate to be the next HHS secretary, officials said. She also proved her mettle to Obama during last fall's 16-day government shutdown, the officials said.
Politics also runs deep in Burwell's blood. Her mother, Cleo, is the former mayor of her hometown, Hinton, W.Va.