The Senate Finance Committee today approved Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s nomination to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, which has come under increased scrutiny because of the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act.
The committee voted 21-3 to send President Obama’s nomination of Burwell, currently director of the Office of Management and Budget, to the full Senate, which may not take it up until early June.
Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Burwell would be a “force for bringing people together in a bipartisan way and forging common ground.” She would replace Kathleen Sebelius as HHS secretary.
Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., John Cornyn, R-Texas, and John Thune, R-S.D., cast the votes against Burwell.
Many speculated that Burwell would have a smooth confirmation process after two tame hearings, but not all lawmakers plan to vote for her.
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., vowed this week to oppose Burwell’s nomination over what he called the consequences of the health care law, popularly known as Obamacare.
“What I find most infuriating about Obamacare is that Congress worked behind closed doors to give themselves special treatment to avoid higher costs and lower quality of care,” Vitter said. “I’m going to oppose Ms. Burwell’s nomination until the American people get the same relief from Obamacare as the Washington elite and their corporate allies.”
Other Republican senators have asked Burwell for additional information about Obamacare, including costs for the federal health insurance exchange website, HealthCare.gov. Burwell responded that federal spending has reached $834 million for the site and another $200 million has been budgeted for fiscal 2015, the Washington Examiner reported.
Burwell did have a relatively smooth confirmation path to her OMB post, winning a 96-0 Senate vote in April 2013.