The New York Times is reporting that Governor Kathleen Sebelius of the midwestern U.S. state of Kansas has emerged as President Barack Obama's top choice as secretary of Health and Human Services.

A story in Thursday's edition of the newspaper says the White House believes the Democratic governor's ability to work with her state's Republican-controlled legislature is an asset, as Mr. Obama begins a drive to expand health care.

The Times says the president is planning to turn his attention to health care now that he has signed his economic stimulus plan into law.  

Before becoming governor in 2003, Sebelius spent eight years as the state's insurance commissioner, which included running the state's Medicaid program, the joint federal-state health care plan for the poor and disabled.

She was one of the earliest supporters of Mr. Obama's presidential campaign, and was mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate.

Mr. Obama's initial nominee for the post, former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, withdrew his nomination amid controversy over his late payment of $128,000 in back income taxes.