Cecelia Mason Published

Burwell Nomination Progressing Through the Senate


The Senate Finance Committee is expected to vote this week on whether to approve West Virginia native and current Office of Management and Budget Director, Sylvia Matthews Burwell, as head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

If the committee approves Burwell the full Senate will take up her nomination.

Republican Endorsement

Burwell faced another round of questions Wednesday April 14, 2014 as the U.S. Senate Finance Committee considered her nomination to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

This was Burwell’s second confirmation hearing and she received an endorsement from a key republican and questions about the Affordable Care act. The hearing opened with an introduction by Republican Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) who said he plans to vote for Burwell’s nomination.

“She’s competent,” Coburn said. “To me that says something because so often we have people placed in positions in Washington that aren’t competent for the task at hand.”

Coburn went on to say Burwell has an outstanding character, something he’s witnessed as he’s worked closely with Burwell and others at the Office of Management and Budget over the past year on problems in that agency.

“When you have somebody that’s competent and also has strong character you find a way to get past your differences to solve problems.” Coburn said.

West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller also helped introduce Burwell and pointed out what he considers some of her strengths. Rockefeller called Burwell brilliant, yet humble and always hard working.

“So the central devotion of your purpose of public service is to help people better their position in life,” Rockefeller said.

During her opening statement Burwell told committee members that she plans to focus on three areas should she be approved: building strong teams, strengthening relationships and delivering results.

“If confirmed I look forward to working alongside the remarkable men and women of the Department of Health and Human Services to build on their work to insure that children, families and seniors have the building blocks of healthy and productive lives,” Burwell said.

Republican committee members took the opportunity to make their dissatisfaction with the Affordable Care Act known, and expressed frustration with lack of communication from HHS under current Director Kathleen Sebelius.

Concerns Expressed

The Ranking Republican, Senator Orin Hatch of Utah, was the first to ask if Burwell would answer queries from Congress. Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida brought up the problem of Medicare Fraud, calling south Florida ground zero and asking Burwell how she’ll address it.

Other topics committee members touched on included health care for minorities, whether states that used federal money to launch failed health care web sites should have to repay it and fixing what some called the ‘broken system of reimbursing physicians under Medicare.’

At the end of the hearing Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) it’s his intention to work with other members to push the nomination through the Senate as quickly as possible.