Hatch: 'Real question' about HHS nomination

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchKoch groups: Don't renew expired tax breaks in government funding bill Hatch tweets link to 'invisible' glasses after getting spotted removing pair that wasn't there DHS giving ‘active defense’ cyber tools to private sector, secretary says MORE (R-Utah) says there is a “real question” about  President Obama’s nominee to be deputy Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary, in part over questions about an abortion law investigation moving too slowly. 

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Mary Wakefield’s nomination is currently before Hatch’s committee. 

"There's a real question right now about her and I intend to try and call her up, but we'll have to work through the problems," Hatch told The Hill. 

Wakefield herself is uncontroversial, and she won praise from both sides of the aisle at a hearing last month. However, Republican objections on other HHS-related issues have been holding her up. 

In particular, Republicans say HHS’s investigation into a possible violation of abortion law in California is moving too slowly. In 2014, a California state agency required all health insurance plans to cover abortions, which Republicans say is a clear violation of the federal Weldon Amendment, protecting insurance plans from retribution if they decline to cover abortions. 

The HHS Office of Civil Rights, which has the responsibility of enforcing the Weldon Amendment, said in December 2014 it had opened an investigation into California’s actions. But the investigation is still not complete, drawing Republican objections. 

Asked about the abortion investigation issue holding up the nomination, Hatch said, “That’s part of it.”  

He added, “Personally, I like her, but I'm only one person.”

Wakefield has been at HHS since 2009 and currently serves as deputy secretary, the No. 2 position, on an acting basis. 

She is seen as a rural health expert, after her experience as an associate dean at the University of North Dakota medical school. 

At recent congressional hearings, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell has been pressed about the abortion law investigation. 

Burwell said that she wished the investigation could have moved faster. She also said the investigation would be completed at some point, but declined to give a time frame.