Obama’s HHS Pick Advances With Republican Support

The Senate voted today to end debate on Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s nomination.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 14: Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget Sylvia Mathews Burwell takes her seat as she arrives at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee May 14, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. If confirmed, Burwell will succeed Kathleen Sebelius to become the next secretary of Health and Human Services. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
National Journal
Sophie Novack
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Sophie Novack
June 4, 2014, 8:23 a.m.

Obama­care is about to have a new ringlead­er, and she has both parties’ ap­prov­al.

In a pro­ced­ur­al vote Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, the Sen­ate voted 67-28 to in­voke clo­ture on the nom­in­a­tion of Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Budget Dir­ect­or Sylvia Math­ews Bur­well to head the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices — all but se­cur­ing her con­firm­a­tion. The Sen­ate is likely to hold a fi­nal vote Thursday, and Bur­well is ex­pec­ted to be eas­ily con­firmed.

As­sum­ing she is ap­proved, she will be the first ma­jor ap­pointee to be con­firmed since the Sen­ate in­voked the “nuc­le­ar op­tion,” re­quir­ing only 51 votes for ap­prov­al, in­stead of 60.

Bur­well will re­place out­go­ing Sec­ret­ary Kath­leen Se­beli­us, who an­nounced her resig­na­tion in April, fol­low­ing the botched rol­lout of Health­Care.gov. Re­pub­lic­ans had been call­ing for her de­par­ture for months, but Se­beli­us re­mained in the post through the end of the health care law’s first open-en­roll­ment peri­od, now leav­ing be­hind a much-im­proved en­roll­ment sys­tem and a tally of more than 8 mil­lion sign-ups — ex­ceed­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s goal.

Yet Bur­well is set to in­her­it a post that car­ries a great deal of bag­gage, and she will be in charge of im­ple­ment­ing a law that is still mired in polit­ic­al up­heav­al and pub­lic dis­ap­prov­al. Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans alike have cited her lead­er­ship abil­it­ies and strong man­age­ment style as evid­ence that she is up to the task.

The pre­sumed next HHS chief has com­manded the re­spect of both parties since be­fore her nom­in­a­tion: Bur­well was ap­proved for her cur­rent OMB post on a 96-0 vote. Be­fore today’s full Sen­ate vote, she sailed through two con­firm­a­tion hear­ings, in front of the Sen­ate Fin­ance and the Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor, and Pen­sions com­mit­tees.

Bur­well’s nom­in­a­tion is now sub­ject to up to 30 hours of post-clo­ture de­bate be­fore the fi­nal vote.

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