Senate confirms Burwell as health secretary

Published On: Jun 05 2014 02:16:57 PM EDT
Updated On: Jun 05 2014 04:25:48 PM EDT

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The Senate confirmed Sylvia Mathews Burwell as the next health secretary on Thursday, paving the way for new leadership at the agency heavily criticized for the rocky rollout of Affordable Care Act.

Lawmakers voted 78-17 in confirming Burwell, 48, who was previously White House budget director.

She replaces Kathleen Sebelius, who resigned in April following months of controversy over the early implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the politically charged health law that serves as Obama's signature domestic achievement.

Obama praised the Senate's swift bipartisan action in confirming Burwell, who he called "a proven manager who knows how to deliver results" and work with both parties.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said Burwell's nomination "has a breadth of bipartisan support because she's really that good."

"She's really that capable and she's really that qualified," the Democrat from Oregon said on the chamber's floor ahead of the vote.

Sebelius came under heavy political fire as technical glitches and reports of dropped plans plagued the department amid the website launch.

Issues with website eventually smoothed out, but the health care law remains a political flashpoint heading into November's midterms.

While some Republicans expressed support early-on for Burwell, unsurprisingly, opposition to Affordable Care Act remains a key campaign platform for the GOP.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who's facing a tough re-election battle back home in Kentucky, voted against Burwell's nomination.

"By most accounts, Sylvia Burwell is a smart and skilled public servant. But her embrace of Obamacare calls her policy judgment into question," he said.

Between October and May, more than 9 million people enrolled in health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act.

A CNN/ORC poll released last month indicated a majority of Americans want to keep the federal health care law as is, or make some changes to improve it.

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