President Barack Obama on Friday nominated budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell as his new health secretary, seeking to capitalize on an enrollment surge to cement his signature health law. Obama paid tribute to outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, saying she had pulled off a "historic accomplishment" by securing health insurance for millions of Americans for the first time. Despite Obama's warm endorsement, Sebelius is effectively paying the price for the chaotic rollout of Obamacare last year, which forced the administration to launch an emergency effort to fix a malfunctioning enrollment website. The hurried triage paid off, after 7.5 million people eventually signed up through federal and state exchanges to the health care plan by an end-of-March deadline.
The United States on Friday urged the international community to contribute more to Ukraine's economic rescue, stressing the "immediate" need to fund a huge IMF program for Kiev. "The United States is bolstering the IMF program through a complementary aid package, which includes a $1 billion loan guarantee and additional technical assistance," Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement to the IMF. "It is critical that the international community -- multilateral development banks and bilaterals -- take immediate steps to also support the IMF program by providing financing support, given the sizeable financing needs." As Ukraine's economy foundered under a new government and threats from neighboring Russia last month, the International Monetary Fund announced a rescue program of $14-18 billion to stabilize the country's crumpled finances and help restore growth.
Former Connecticut Governor John Rowland, who was forced to resign from office a decade ago for corruption, is due in federal court in New Haven, Connecticut, on Friday for arraignment on charges he violated campaign laws. Rowland, a 56-year-old Republican who spent 10 months in prison in 2005 and 2006, was indicted on Thursday on charges he tried to conceal payments made to him by two congressional campaigns he worked on in 2009 and 2012. The candidate involved in the 2012 campaign and her husband last month pleaded guilty to charges involving illegal campaign contributions. Rowland served as Connecticut's governor from 1995 to 2004, when he resigned amid another corruption scandal.
North Korea on Friday accused the United States of hypocrisy for remaining silent over a South Korean missile test while condemning Pyongyang's recent launches. "The US double-dealing attitude and despicable mode of action has been brought to light," a spokesman for the North's powerful National Defence Commission (NDC) said in a statement. The statement, carried by the North's official KCNA news agency, comes at a time of elevated military tensions, with Pyongyang threatening a "new" type of nuclear test. "As long as the US persists in its hostile policy... according to its high-handed, arbitrary and gangster-like double standards, (North Korea) will push ahead with countermeasures for self-defence to put an end to the policy," the spokesman said.
Imagine someone came to you and said, "I will give you this job where you manage one of the most complicated, least popular, and most politically toxic things in the government, but before you get the job, a bunch of senators will be intentionally harsh to you to improve their political positions." President Obama made that pitch to Sylvia Mathews Burwell and she — inexplicably — said yes. Burwell currently runs the government's Office of Management and Budget, an executive branch agency that helps the president prepare and evaluate the federal budget. This is sort of what Burwell does for the federal government.