World & Nation

Senate panel OKs Sylvia Mathews Burwell as health secretary

Sylvia Burwell
Sylvia Mathews Burwell testifies during her May 14 confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.
(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

A Senate panel Wednesday recommended approval of President Obama’s pick to oversee implementation of the Affordable Care Act, all but assuring Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s confirmation as the next secretary of Health and Human Services.

Eight Republicans joined all 13 Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee in endorsing Burwell, who is expected to easily be confirmed when her nomination is considered by the full Senate, likely next month.

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the senior Republican on the committee, praised her Wednesday as an “excellent choice.”

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) noted that although he does not support the healthcare law, he was confident that Burwell would be responsive to lawmakers. “I believe we’ll get answers,” he said.


Three Republicans voted against Burwell.

Burwell, a West Virginia native and veteran of the Clinton White House, currently heads the Office of Management and Budget, one of the most powerful positions in most administrations.

After leaving the Clinton administration, she worked for a decade at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, part of the time as its chief operating officer. More recently, she headed the Wal-Mart Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Obama tapped her last month to replace Kathleen Sebelius, who has guided implementation of the Affordable Care Act for the last four years.


Throughout her confirmation process, Burwell earned glowing reviews from numerous GOP lawmakers, several of whom appeared to tone down their criticism of the healthcare law during her confirmation hearings.

This week, however, Hatch went to the floor of the Senate to make a point of reiterating his strong opposition to the law and the administration’s work to implement it since it was enacted in 2010.

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