News

Burwell takes Obamacare hot seat before Senate panel

Burwell takes Obamacare hot seat before Senate panel

HEALTHCARE: Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the widely respected White House budget director, who got a cordial reception from both Republicans and Democrats at her first hearing last week, Photo: Associated Press

By David Morgan and Julia Edwards

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senate Republicans get their last chance to grill President Barack Obama’s nominee for U.S. health secretary on Wednesday, but seem likely to take a harder line on the alleged failings of Obamacare than the job qualifications of Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

The widely respected White House budget director, who got a cordial reception from both Republicans and Democrats at her first hearing last week, will appear before the Senate Finance Committee for a final hearing at which she is again likely to find support on both sides of the aisle.

Finance Committee members could take a harder line with Burwell, since they are responsible for deciding whether to move her nomination to the Senate floor for a final vote, aides said. Democrats who control the Senate still hope to have her confirmation wrapped up before the May 26 Memorial Day holiday.

“We’re not very happy with healthcare. So who knows? It could be a tough line,” said Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the panel’s top Republican.

But Hatch questioned the notion that committee Republicans would use the hearing as a platform for election-year attacks on Obama’s landmark healthcare reform law. “Some might think it so. But I’m not sure that I’m going to do that,” he said.

Republicans insist the unpopular law known as Obamacare remains front and center in their campaign to take control of the Senate in November’s midterm elections. But they have been unexpectedly reticent in their criticism during what some analysts say could be their last chance before the ballot to grill a top administration official about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“The GOP isn’t backing off. But once you get past the public’s overall opposition to ACA, their views are nuanced: they want it fixed. And Republicans are struggling mightily on the ground to come up with a fix,” said Bill Pierce, a healthcare official under former President George W. Bush.

Republican officials say their campaign has always needed a wider focus including issues such as the economy, jobs and energy as well as Obamacare.

A House Republican aide said a new spate of healthcare hearings could be expected when Obamacare insurance premiums for 2015 come to light in the coming months.

Another reason for the more conciliatory Republican tone appears to be Burwell herself. She has been meeting privately with individual senators, Republican and Democratic, to discuss issues important to the lawmakers and their states. Those meetings led to some favorable public responses from Republicans at last week’s hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“She and I have sat down, and we agreed that she’s going to support the president’s position and she’s agreed that I’m going to be vehemently opposed to it – and that we’re going to focus on everything else where we can work together,” said Senator Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican who sits on both the HELP and finance panels. He announced last week that he will vote to send her nomination to the Senate floor.

Supporters credit Burwell with being able to find common ground with a wide variety of working partners, despite political barriers. Republicans say that helps separate her from outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, whom they have described as arrogant and aloof in her dealings with Congress.

(Additional reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Caren Bohan and Bernard Orr)

Recent Headlines

in Local Sports

QB Luke Falk in charge as Washington St opens season against Portland State

washstate

This week, Leach announced that Falk would start against the Vikings. You can hear all the action between WSU & PSU on KPUG beginning at 10:00 a.m. on KPUG.

in Local Sports

Morrison, Seager help Mariners outslug A’s, 11-8

seattle mariners oakland athletics logos

Kyle Seager and Stefen Romero both homered while Brad Miller drove in three runs for the Mariners, who won their third straight to clinch the season series between the division rivals.

in Local Sports

Petersen falls short as No. 23 Broncos beat Huskies

Washington Huskies head coach Chris Petersen in action against Eastern Washington in an NCAA football game Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, in Seattle. Washington won 59-52.

Jeremy McNichols rushed for 89 yards and two first-half touchdowns, and No. 23 Boise State withstood a second half filled with special teams mistakes for a 16-13 victory over Washington on Friday

in Local Sports

Prep football scoreboard – Week 1

high school football scoreboard dl

Check out the scores from around the Northwest Conference

in Local Sports

AP Source: Seahawks, Jackson agree on 1-year contract

This is a 2015 photo of Fred Jackson of the Buffalo Bills NFL football team. This image reflects the Buffalo Bills active roster as of Monday, June 15, 2015 when this image was taken. (AP Photo)

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Friday on a condition of anonymity because the deal has not been signed. NFL.com first reported Jackson and the Seahawks had agreed to terms.