Sens. Cruz, Lee press Obama's healthcare nominee for answers

Two Tea Party senators are demanding that President Obama’s nominee to lead the Health and Human Services Department answer a series of detailed questions before the Senate holds a vote on her confirmation.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) in a letter to nominee Sylvia Mathews Burwell ask for written answers to questions about ObamaCare’s enrollment figures, its cost, the employer mandate and whether insurers on the exchanges will provide abortion services.

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Burwell’s confirmation as Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s successor is in little doubt, but the letter from Lee and Cruz show some GOP critics intend to make the road a little bit rockier.

The questions from Cruz and Lee cover issues related to the HHS, as well as questions that came up for Burwell at her current position, as Obama’s budget director.

Specifically, the two ask what legal authority the Office of Management and Budget had to exempt government subsidies for consumers on the healthcare exchanges from automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. Cruz and Lee write that the decision was made when Burwell was OMB’s director, and that the subsidies were previously subject to sequestration.

“Under what legal authority did OMB take such action?” ask the senators.

The senators also note insurance companies have been reporting duplicate enrollments and asked Burwell whether her estimate of 8 million enrollees takes those duplications into consideration.

They also asked what percentage of enrollees, broken down by age, have paid their first month’s premium, and how many enrollees already had insurance before joining ObamaCare.

Lee and Cruz also note Obama has not yet nominated anyone to serve on the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is tasked with coming up with ways to reduce Medicare costs, and Burwell has stated she does not want the group to come into effect.

They asked whether she supports a repeal of the IPAB and what specific Medicare spending cuts would she propose instead.

On abortion, the two ask whether Burwell will provide a list to Congress of the insurers who will provide abortion services under the healthcare law.

They also ask Burwell whether she thinks the employer mandate was delayed for political reasons, and whether she agrees with a 1993 comment from then-first lady Hillary Clinton that an individual mandate without an employer mandate would lead to a drop in employer-provided health insurance.

While the two compliment Burwell’s private sector and government experience in the letter, a blog post on Lee’s Senate website accuses her of being "less than forthcoming" in her testimony to Congress.

“So far, Ms. Burwell's testimony has been less than forthcoming and suggests she plans to follow the lead of her predecessor in blocking Congress's ability to do proper oversight for the American people,” the post states.

Burwell was unanimously confirmed by the Senate as OMB director, but her confirmation vote to lead the HHS is expected to be more partisan.

Lee and Cruz, who might run for the White House in 2016, are both seen as tough votes for Burwell.