Burwell Could Have Smooth Confirmation Hearings for HHS Secretary
Several leading Republican senators in recent interviews said they hold Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President Obama's nominee to replace outgoing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in high regard and expect she will advance through her confirmation hearings, Politico reports.
Burwell is scheduled to appear before the Senate Finance Committee next week for the first of two confirmation hearings. A second hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will follow, before the full Senate votes on her nomination. Last year, the Senate voted 96-0 to confirm her for her current role as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Although she garnered unanimous support from senators last year, this time she is expected to face "two tough grillings," primarily from opponents of the Affordable Care Act, Politico reports.
However, some GOP senators have suggested that opposition to the ACA should be separated from any concerns about Burwell's ability to carry out her responsibilities. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), a member of the Finance Committee, said Burwell is "not the one to go after (over) the policy or ideological differences," adding that he is "much more concerned that she's up to snuff on [public health preparedness and the National Institutes of Health] -- things where the secretary can have a real impact."
Meanwhile, some Republicans have highlighted Burwell's lack of a health care background as an area of concern, arguing that HHS needs a more experienced health care leader from state government or the health insurance industry.
However, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said, "It's going to be impossible for Republicans to misremember their votes on her OMB confirmation just a handful of months ago," adding, "I don't expect that this is going to be as big a fight as people originally predicted" (Haberkorn/Everett, Politico, 4/29).
House GOP Lawmakers Seek Hold on Burwell's Nomination
Five House Republicans from Louisiana have sent a letter to their two Louisiana colleagues in the Senate -- Sens. Mary Landrieu (D) and David Vitter (R) -- to ask that a hold be placed on Burwell's nomination until the Obama administration drops the individual mandate from the ACA, The Hill reports.
The lawmakers noted that the administration has issued reprieves to businesses and insurers from the law's employer mandate and argued that it is "wholly unfair for families to still be threatened with penalties" (Viebeck, The Hill, 4/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.