CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Hinton native Sylvia Mathews Burwell emerged mostly unscathed Thursday from the first of two hearings on her nomination to head the Health and Human Services department, even though her chief role will be to continue implementing the president’s controversial health-care law.
Burwell, whose confirmation is likely, did not get much of a grilling and even received strong vows of support from two influential Republicans: Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who introduced her warmly to the committee, and Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, who promised to vote to confirm her at her next hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.
But the wide-ranging hearing also touched on some of the more contentious aspects of the law that, if she is confirmed, she will soon find herself mired in: the technical problems that continue to plague the federal health insurance Web site; the unfinished job of expanding Medicaid nationally; and the president’s broken promise that people who liked their old plans could keep them.
Burwell, 48, also would inherit an agency that underwent major turmoil because of the rocky rollout of the health-care law last year.
“The position for which she is currently nominated is perhaps the most thankless. That’s why I advised her against taking the leadership position at HHS,” joked McCain, who called Burwell a friend. “After all, who would recommend their friend take over as captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg?”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., helped introduce Burwell to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Thursday. He said the hearing shouldn’t be about debating flaws about the health-care law or its roll out, but who could best manage it in the future.
“We’re here to get the most responsible, the most talented person who can lead us,” Manchin said…