Burwell Faces Grilling Over Obamacare in Confirmation Hearings

Image: Burwell Faces Grilling Over Obamacare in Confirmation Hearings

Wednesday, 30 Apr 2014 08:07 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Senate Republicans plan to grill Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President Barack Obama's nominee as Health and Human Services secretary, with tough questions about Obamacare during confirmation hearings next week.

But Politico reported that the current director of the Office of Management and Budget will likely be cleared in the nomination process to replace outgoing secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Several GOP senators told the politics website said that they will support Burwell to head the agency that has come under a barrage of criticism from leading Republicans while implementing the Affordable Care Act.

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It was initially believed the GOP would use the hearings to lay into Obama’s signature healthcare law. But Politico says Republicans are "impressed" with her resume, which includes a spell as Walmart Foundation president and as president of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s global development program.

Utah's Orrin Hatch, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which will vote on Burwell’s nomination before it goes to the Senate floor, said, "Cursorily, she looks very good, but she’s going to have to answer some really tough questions, is all I can say."

North Carolina GOP Sen. Richard Burr, who’s also on the committee, told Politico, "She’s not the one to go after [on] policy or ideological differences. She’s got to go in and try to run the place. I’m much more concerned that she’s up to snuff on things where the secretary can have a real impact."

And Tennessee GOP Sen. Bob Corker, said, "The interaction I’ve had with her has been very positive. I know she’s knowledgeable, and I don’t enter thinking about her in that position with any negative thoughts."

Burwell, who will also have to face a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing during the process, was approved by a margin of 96-0 last year during her confirmation process for OMB director.

This time around, she will face stiffer questions while also getting an immediate sense of how tough the job will be as the new HHS chief, especially with Republicans targeting Obamacare as a major issue in the upcoming midterm elections.

"Her challenge is to convince the Congress that they’re going to get real information in a timely fashion about Obamacare, about enrollment, who’s enrolled, what percentage or a certain age group, how many people are paying their premiums," Sen. Lindsey Graham told Politico. "The past lack of transparency is unacceptable."

But the South Carolina Republican seems set to back her nomination, saying, "Somebody’s got to do the job."

However, Sen. Jeff Sessions, who has worked with Burwell in his position as the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, appears unlikely to support her.

"The biggest issue facing America now is what to do about healthcare, and she lacks experience in that," the Alabama senator told Politico. "They want a message person who is loyal utterly to the White House, and less emphasis is being placed in running these agencies."

Sessions believes that HHS needs an experienced healthcare leader from state government or the insurance industry, according to Politico.

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