Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The Senate on Thursday voted 78-17 to confirm Sylvia Mathews Burwell as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Burwell, 48, has been director of the White House Office of Management and Budget since April of last year. She will replace Kathleen Sebelius, who resigned as HHS head in April following the technical glitches in the online insurance exchange that prevented people from enrolling under the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.
Among those who voted to confirm Burwell were 24 Republicans while 16 GOPs voted no, including Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas. Both senators are among the fiercest critics of Obamacare. Also voting no were Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Burwell is facing the task of correcting alleged inaccurate taxpayer subsidies given to millions of Obamacare customers and recouping financial losses of several state health insurance exchanges, the latest concerns raised by lawmakers on the Obama administration’s flagship program.
Obama nominated Burwell because of her proven management capability, which Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virg.) said had brought “a more businesslike approach” to the White House budget office.
Before her floor confirmation, Burwell breezed through hearings by two Senate committees with a promise to be candid and cooperative with Congress.
As HHS secretary, Burwell will also be in charge of the department’s sub-agencies namely Medicare and Medicaid, National Institutes of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration.