By Ferdous Al-Faruque - 05/08/14 11:04 AM EDT
Sen. John McCain made a cameo appearance at a hearing on Thursday to heap praise on President Obama’s nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The Arizona Republican showed up at the confirmation hearing for Sylvia Matthews Burwell even though he isn’t a member of the Senate panel that is vetting her nomination.
McCain stressed he is opposed to ObamaCare, which Burwell would take charge of if confirmed, but said she would bring the “competent leadership” that HHS needs.
McCain told the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee when he first heard Burwell was being nominated to replace HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, he advised his “friend” against taking the job.
He said the move would mean she would be leaving the toughest job in Washington as director of the Office of Management and Budget for the most thankless job as secretary of HHS.
“Who would recommend his friend take over as captain of the HHS Titanic after it hit the iceberg?” McCain asked.
McCain touted Burwell’s resume as OMB director, chief operating officer of the Gates Foundation, and president of Wal-Mart, and recommended that his colleagues visit Bentonville, Ark., where Wal-Mart was founded, to see what an American success story looks like.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) also made a special appearance to praise Burwell, who is a native of West Virginia.
By contrast, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), ranking member on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, spent most of his opening remarks railing against ObamaCare.
Alexander cited recent news reports citing the increased cost of healthcare and premiums due to ObamaCare and said he hoped the Senate would flip to the GOP this fall so that Republicans could point the healthcare system in the “right direction.”
“Ms. Burwell you have a reputation for competence, and I would suggest you are going to need it,” Alexander said.
While Democrats and most Republicans seemed prepared to approve Burwell’s nomination, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said he didn’t want to see Burwell leaving as director of the OMB until the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project had been funded.
Burwell said the project had not been funded in the last budget due to a lack of funds for the Army Corps of Engineers but was optimistic it would eventually get approved.