Senate Finance Committee Approves Nomination of EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt as HHS Secretary
The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved the nomination of Mike Leavitt as HHS secretary, and the full Senate confirmation vote is expected soon, CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 1/25).
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) had threatened to delay a confirmation vote on the Leavitt nomination unless Senate leaders guaranteed a vote on his reimportation bill, CQ HealthBeat reports. Dorgan and Senate leaders on Tuesday agreed to hold a committee hearing on reimportation within 90 days, which will allow the Senate on Wednesday to hold a confirmation vote on the Leavitt nomination (CQ HealthBeat, 1/25).
Dorgan on Tuesday indicated that he would vote to confirm Leavitt, "and other Democrats said they knew of no other obstacle to his confirmation," Reuters reports (Reuters, 1/25).
Leavitt, the current Environmental Protection Agency administrator and a former Utah governor, last week testified before the committee that he could not dismiss the possibility of Medicaid budget reductions or limits for optional benefits, which are used by about two-thirds of beneficiaries.
Although Leavitt said that the new Medicare law would serve as the primary focus for HHS in the next few years, he did not provide specific comments about implementation of the law.
Leavitt also said that he would consider the legalization of prescription drug reimportation if the practice is proven safe and cost effective.
Leavitt did not discuss proposed reforms to FDA but said he would seek to "protect the integrity" of the agency (California Healthline, 1/20).