Office of Management and Budget director Sylvia Matthews Burwell is expected to be confirmed this afternoon as the next secretary of Health and Human Services.
Burwell cleared a cloture vote in the Senate yesterday 67-28, with 14 Republicans voting in favor of moving her nomination forward.
“As I said when she was first nominated, Ms. Burwell is an outstanding choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services as it continues to implement the Affordable Care Act and provide all Americans with the critical health services they need,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said after the vote. “She has done a great job as Director of the Office and Management and Budget in a challenging year, and I am confident Ms. Burwell’s strong management skills, deep experience, integrity, and passion for helping others will allow her to serve families and communities just as effectively in this new role.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said he’ll vote against Burwell’s nomination.
“Until the President agrees to offer meaningful relief to the millions of people hurt by Obamacare, we should not confirm this nominee,” Cruz said in a statement. “As Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Burwell was responsible for a $92 billion budget, yet at a hearing earlier this year claimed she could not speak with ‘expertise’ about recommended Medicare cuts.”
“In testimony to Congress, Burwell also refrained from directly answering questions about the number of previously insured Obamacare enrollees; where the funding for expected HHS shortfalls will come from; how the Independent Payment Advisory Board can be expected to function; the specifics of abortion coverage mandated by Obamacare; or the delay in the employer mandate.”
In a floor speech Wednesday, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) called on Burwell to work with Republicans to “repair the damage done by Obamacare.”
“Republicans would like to repair the damage that Obamacare has done. We would like to prevent future damage, and as responsibly and rapidly as we can, we want to move in a different direction to put in place proposals that provide more freedom, more choices, and lower costs. We trust Americans to make those decisions for ourselves. We believe that is the American way,” said Alexander, the top-ranking GOP on the Senate health committee. “Since President Obama will still be in office for the next two years, if Ms. Burwell is confirmed we will need her help to do that.
Of Obama’s 22 unilateral changes to his healthcare law, the senator quipped, “At this rate, the president may be invited to speak at the next Republican convention for doing the most of any elected official to undo his own healthcare law.”
“For starters, if you like your plan, you can keep it, as the president promised. Senator Ron Johnson has a proposal that would remove some Obamacare mandates to make that possible,” Alexander said. “Senator McCain has a proposal that if you find a policy in another state that fits your budget and your healthcare needs, you should be able buy it. Senator Enzi has a proposal which say if you are a small employer, you can combine your purchasing power with other small employers to offer your employees lower cost insurance.”
“Senators Burr, Coburn and Hatch have a proposal to allow you to buy a major medical policy to avoid going bankrupt in the event of a medical catastrophe. The proposal would also allow expanded health savings accounts to compliment that and help individuals pay for routine care at a discount. If you are an employer, I have a proposal that would make it easier for you to give your employees rewards for leading a healthy life style.”