8 More Republicans Back HHS Nominee

Sylvia Mathews Burwell sailed through a Senate Finance Committee confirmation vote.

President Obama names Sylvia Mathews Burwell, his current budget director, to replace Heath and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on April 11, 2014.
National Journal
Sam Baker
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Sam Baker
May 21, 2014, 10:37 a.m.

Eight Re­pub­lic­ans lent their sup­port Wed­nes­day to the con­firm­a­tion of a new Health and Hu­man Ser­vices sec­ret­ary, steer­ing clear of an­oth­er fight over Obama­care.

The Sen­ate Fin­ance Com­mit­tee voted 21-3 to send Sylvia Math­ews Bur­well’s nom­in­a­tion to the full Sen­ate, which will likely hold a fi­nal con­firm­a­tion vote after the Me­mori­al Day re­cess. The com­mit­tee’s Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers split 8-3 on the nom­in­a­tion, with Sens. Pat Roberts, John Cornyn, and John Thune vot­ing no.

“I think we have a chance of hav­ing a really great ad­min­is­trat­or in this area “¦ and I very much sup­port her,” said Sen. Or­rin Hatch, the com­mit­tee’s top Re­pub­lic­an.

Re­pub­lic­ans clearly aren’t pre­pared to hand Bur­well — or Pres­id­ent Obama — a re­peat of her un­an­im­ous con­firm­a­tion as White House budget dir­ect­or. But with the ma­jor­ity of Fin­ance Com­mit­tee Re­pub­lic­ans on board, Bur­well is poised to take the helm at HHS with bi­par­tis­an back­ing and few delays. Sens. John Mc­Cain and Tom Coburn, who don’t serve on the com­mit­tee, have also an­nounced their sup­port for her nom­in­a­tion.

Some con­ser­vat­ives, led by Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, have tried to slow down the bi­par­tis­an love train around Bur­well, and out­side ad­vocacy groups are press­ing for a big­ger Obama­care fight once her nom­in­a­tion reaches the Sen­ate floor.

But so far, party lead­ers have avoided turn­ing Bur­well’s nom­in­a­tion in­to an­oth­er Obama­care fight. The ques­tion­ing at her two con­firm­a­tion hear­ings was cor­di­al, and even Lee and Cruz have kept their com­plaints mod­est. They’ve in­sisted that Bur­well an­swer more ques­tions about the health care law be­fore the Sen­ate ends de­bate over her nom­in­a­tion, but thanks to a re­cent change in the cham­ber’s rules, con­ser­vat­ives have little lever­age to delay or block a fi­nal vote.

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