- Obama takes aim at ‘corporate deserters’
- Dick’s Sporting Goods lays off 478 PGA golf pros
- Senators: Cease-fire must allow Israel to defend against rockets, tunnels
- Sierra Leone doctor fighting Ebola catches disease
- Iraq welcomes Russian fighter jets, helicopter gunships into ISIL fight
- John McCain laments: Obama’s ‘self-pity … is really kind of sad’
- GOP offer to fix VA gives $10 billion in emergency funds
- Paul Ryan offers to repair U.S. economic safety net with a single grant stream
- Kim Jong-un builds bond with Putin: $250M Russia-backed addition to key port opens
- Pope Francis meets Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman sentenced to death
Health secretary nominee faces cordial senators
Question of the Day
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama’s pick to be the nation’s new health secretary faced some pointed questions Wednesday over the health care law, but she also won praise as Republican senators largely passed up the chance for an all-out assault on “Obamacare.”
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the White House budget director, pledged under questioning from Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to try to recoup any federal taxpayer dollars that have been misused on failed health law sign-up websites in states including Maryland and Oregon. She promised to try her best to be responsive to senators who complained that her predecessor, Kathleen Sebelius, was not.
She also defended the administration’s record of making unilateral changes to the Affordable Care Act, such as delaying the requirement for employers to offer health coverage or pay fines. “What was intended was trying to implement the law in a better way that’s common sense,” Burwell said.
But Burwell, 48, got largely cordial treatment during an appearance before the Senate Finance Committee, just as occurred last week before the Senate’s health committee - defying predictions that her nomination hearings to become secretary of Health and Human Services would turn into an election-year trial of Obamacare.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., introduced Burwell to the committee and was effusive, calling her “remarkably responsible” and “a great listener.” Hatch declared that “you have the qualifications to do the job.”
But Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, warned that she would have to work to develop good relations with Congress following frustration with Sebelius, who announced her departure last month just as the health law was recovering from the disastrous initial failure of HealthCare.gov by posting better-than-expected sign-up numbers topping 8 million.
“We can be very cordial today, but if you want to change the relationship your department has with Congress, you’re going to have to be willing to break the ‘by any means necessary’ mindset the department has had for the past five years,” Grassley said.
“I take the issues very seriously,” Burwell responded. “I actually hope that there will be actually direct communication if there are concerns.”
The large hearing room was less than half full, which Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said was evidence that Burwell’s nomination was widely supported.
It also pointed to a larger dynamic in Congress, where Republican attacks on Obamacare have receded in recent weeks. Polling shows the law remains unpopular, but the public is signing up.
House Republicans have not recently scheduled a vote to repeal the health law, even while insisting they remain committed to doing so after more than 50 votes to repeal or dismember it. Other issues including the investigation into the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, have taken center stage instead. Meanwhile House Republicans are still working on developing their own health care alternative to bring to a vote, but timing and content are uncertain.
Some Democrats see indications that Republicans have begun to accept that the president’s health law has taken root.
TWT Video Picks
By Michael Widlanski
Leveling the battlefield to aid terrorists enables evil to fight on
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
- Hamas rejects Kerry's call for cease-fire; Fears grow others could join fight against Israel
- Evidence shows Russia firing artillery into Ukraine: Pentagon
- Norway expects imminent 'concrete threat' from ISIL terrorists 'within days'
- Tom Petty: 'No one's got Christ more wrong than the Christians'
- Cutler wins endorsement from gun control group
- Eugenie Bouchard pulls out of D.C.'s Citi Open
- Presidents of Honduras, Guatemala blame U.S. for border children crisis
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq