"Sylvia was a rock, a steady hand on the wheel" as the administration dealt with the
Burwell's confirmation hearings to head the Department of Health and Human Services are likely to be boisterous, however, as
But Burwell has already won some GOP support. Sen.
Burwell's nomination follows the resignation of
Although the HealthCare.gov website has been fixed and 7.5 million people have enrolled in coverage through the state and federal websites, uncertainty about the administration's ability to implement the law still dogs the program in its critical first year.
Advisors to the president say he is putting his best organizational player into the position. A veteran of the Clinton administration, Burwell served as head of two major philanthropic organizations before joining the Obama administration. She graduated with honors from
In a year marked by contentious battles over other nominations, Burwell was confirmed, 96-0, to her current post last April, a fact that Democrats hope will smooth not only the confirmation process, but also the Obamacare debate.
"She starts out from a very high place in terms of support on the Hill," said a Democratic leadership aide. "Obviously
Though not a regular presence on Capitol Hill, Burwell has worked with lawmakers because her department has to approve agency rules and regulations. The aide, who requested anonymity to candidly discuss the situation, also noted that Burwell was a point person during the government shutdown last October, when the Office of Management and Budget assumed a "quarterback level" position.
Appearing with the president for the announcement on Friday, Burwell said she was excited about the nomination to "carry on the important work" at Health and Human Services.
Also in the Rose Garden was Sebelius, whom the president praised for her devotion to the cause of healthcare reform. He predicted she would go down in history for holding the position when the United States decided that quality, affordable healthcare was a right.
Under her leadership, Obama said, the Department of Health and Human Services righted the healthcare marketplaces, "got it fixed, got the job done, and the final score speaks for itself."
[For the Record, April 11, 10:50 a.m.: An earlier headline on this post misspelled Sylvia Burwell's last name as Burrell.]