Republicans: Burwell confirmation hearings will be fair, but focused on ObamaCare

How is Obama's nominee for HHS secretary different from Sebelius and will the political divide over ObamaCare continue to be business as usual?


A Senate Republican said Sunday that party members will use the upcoming confirmation hearing for a new Health and Human Services secretary to get more information about ObamaCare, but dismissed the notion GOP lawmakers intend to turn the proceeding into a political witch hunt.

“The question is will the next secretary put the interests of Americans first, or the policies of the president,” Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, told “Fox News Sunday.”

Scott made clear the hearings in his committee and Senate Finance Committee will be an opportunity to discuss yet-to-be-disclosed final ObamaCare enrollment figures and related issues, but said, “We’re going to keep the focus on the American people, not politics.”

President Obama last week nominated Sylvia Burwell to lead HHS, following the resignation of Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who ran the department during the problem-filled ObamaCare rollout.

Burwell last year passed Senate confirmation 96-0 to run the Office of Management and Budget.

But Scott says that doesn’t mean he will automatically vote for her this time.

“No doubt she was a good choice for OBM,” Scott said. “But that doesn’t make her a good choice for HHS.”

Sebelius’ resignation and the hearings will likely force Democrats, particularly Senate Democrats in tough 2014 re-elections bids, to continue to defend ObamaCare, instead of pivoting to their issues, such as pay equality.

However, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., told Fox News on Sunday the hearings will be another opportunity for his party to tout ObamaCare success stories.

“This law has been immensely helpful to people across the country,” he said. “We can tell true stories, human stories.”

Despite Scott arguing the hearing will be about whether Burwell’s first obligation is to Americans, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told Fox News on Friday the hearings will present “an ideal opportunity to examine the failures that are ObamaCare.”

Still, Burwell will likely be confirmed, considering she’ll need only 51 votes, and Democrats have 55 members in the Senate.