Confirmation path appears smooth for Obama pick to take the helm at HHS

Sylvia Mathews Burwell received a friendly reception from both sides of the aisle during her second confirmation hearing, during which she pledged to try to recoup any taxpayer funds that may have been misused on flawed state websites and defended the "unilateral" changes the Aministration has made to the health law.

The New York Times: Another Breezy Hearing For Obama Health Pick
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President Obama's nominee for secretary of health and human services, appeared Wednesday to be on a swift path to confirmation after she sailed through another cordial congressional hearing without promising significant changes in federal health policy or regulations. Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, who presided over the hearing as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said that he would seek a vote in the committee next week (Pear, 5/14).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Health Nominee Wins Bipartisan Support
Last week, Burwell garnered support from Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Richard Burr of North Carolina. Burwell's hearing also signaled an unusual reserve by GOP lawmakers, who in recent years have used almost every opportunity to attack the health law and push for its repeal (Levey, 5/14).

The Associated Press: Health Secretary Nominee Faces Cordial Senators
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the White House budget director, pledged under questioning from Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to try to recoup any federal taxpayer dollars that have been misused on failed health law sign-up websites in states including Maryland and Oregon. She promised to try her best to be responsive to senators who complained that her predecessor, Kathleen Sebelius, was not. She also defended the administration's record of making unilateral changes to the Affordable Care Act, such as delaying the requirement for employers to offer health coverage or pay fines. "What was intended was trying to implement the law in a better way that's common sense," Burwell said (5/14).

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Nominee Promises to Review State Exchanges
Although Senate Republicans used the hearing to attack the health law, they had mostly kind words for Ms. Burwell, who currently serves as Office of Management and Budget director. She is expected to be confirmed by a majority of Senate Democrats and some Republicans. Facing questions that spanned Medicare Advantage, Alzheimer's research, and powdered-alcohol, Ms. Burwell sought to assure the committee that she would be responsive to their questions. In a sign of her bipartisan support, Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.)-;a fierce critic of the health law-;introduced her to the committee and praised her competence and character (Radnofsky and Hughes, 5/14).

Politico: Sylvia Mathews Burwell Aims To Get Misspent Funds Back
The Obama administration's new pick to run Obamacare said she would use "the full extent of the law" to recover any federal funds that have been misspent on the state Obamacare exchanges that have failed. "Where the federal government and the taxpayer has had funds misused, we need to use the full extent of the law to get those funds back for the taxpayer," Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Wednesday in her confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee (Haberkorn, 5/14).

The Hill:  GOP Tells Obama's Pick:  'Don't Disappear'
Senate Republicans sharpened their attacks on the Obama administration Wednesday while considering Sylvia Burwell's nomination for secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). While the hearing was largely friendly to Burwell, GOP members of the Finance Committee repeatedly complained that federal health officials had not been responsive to their inquiries about the healthcare law. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) called out Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Marilyn Tavenner by name. Grassley said Tanner "seems to have gone into the witness protection program," Grassley told Burwell. "It's been so long since she was last in the chair or at my door. I hope you don't disappear into the same bunker" (Viebeck, 5/14).

Reuters:  U.S. Senators Give Burwell's Health Secretary Bid A Cordial Hearing
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President Barack Obama's nominee for U.S. health secretary, moved closer to confirmation on Wednesday with a final Senate hearing that was marked more by bipartisan accolades than tough questions about Obamacare. Burwell, Obama's widely respected budget director, discussed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in terms that sometimes seemed calculated to appeal to Republicans. At one point she defined healthcare "affordability" in terms of its cost to taxpayers and the economy, as well as the law's intended beneficiaries, many of them low-income Americans. (Morgan, 5/14).

Fox News: Burwell, Obama's Pick To Run HHS, Eases Over Another Confirmation Hurdle
Sylvia Burwell, President Obama's nominee to run the Department of Health and Human Services, received strong bipartisan support Wednesday during a Senate hearing, bringing her a step closer to confirmation. The 48-year-old Burwell, now the White House budget director, received some of her strongest backing from GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch, Utah, and Tom Coburn, Okla., but not without some tough questions about ObamaCare, particularly about the millions taxpayers lost in botched exchange rollouts. Appearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Burwell promised Hatch, the panel's ranking Republican, that she would use the "full extent of the law" to recoup taxpayer money lost on malfunctioning exchanges, including the ones in Maryland and Oregon (5/14).

McClatchy: HHS Nominee Burwell Gets Tough Questions From Committee That Will Decide Her Fate
The road to becoming the next U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary got a little bumpy for Sylvia Mathews Burwell on Wednesday as she was peppered with a series of pointed questions on a wide range of issues during her second Senate nomination hearing. After breezing through a similar hearing last week, Burwell, who heads the White House Office of Management and Budget, faced tougher questions from the Senate Committee on Finance which will ultimately vote on whether she succeeds Kathleen Sebelius as HHS Secretary. Burwell, President Obama's nominee, has broad support from Democrats and Republicans on the committee and is expected to be confirmed by a wide margin (Pugh, 5/15).

Meanwhile, in related legislative news -

The Hill: GOP Demands States Pay For Botched Exchanges
States that experienced severe technical problems in running their ObamaCare exchanges would have to reimburse the federal government for the cost under a Republican bill introduced Wednesday. "This bill rightly restores accountability by ensuring that the hundreds of millions of dollars wasted by these failed exchanges are returned," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. The repayment rule would specifically apply to states that hand control of their marketplaces to the Department of Health and Human Services, as Oregon will do before ObamaCare's second enrollment period begins in November (Viebeck, 5/14).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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