Harkin lifts hold on top healthcare nominee

Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinDem Senator open to bid from the left in 2020 Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Trump should require federal contractors to follow the law MORE (D-Iowa) said Tuesday he has lifted his hold on one of President Obama's top healthcare nominees.

Harkin had placed a hold on the nomination of Marilyn Tavenner, whom Obama tapped to lead the agency that oversees Medicare, Medicaid and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Harkin was upset about cuts the administration has made to the healthcare law's prevention and public health fund. He reiterated those objections during a floor speech Tuesday but said he would allow Tavenner's nomination to move forward.

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"I don't know who's advising the president on this, but I think the president is getting bad advice," Harkin said of the prevention fund.

Tavenner will likely be confirmed — she sailed through the Senate Finance Committee on a unanimous, bipartisan voice vote after receiving a strong endorsement from House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate Race for Republican Speaker rare chance to unify party for election Scalise allies upset over Ryan blindside on McCarthy endorsement MORE (R-Va.).

Harkin's hold was the first real roadblock her nomination had faced. The retiring senator objected to the way the administration has used a fund for prevention and public health grants.

The White House agreed to cut $5 billion from the prevention fund last year, but has since repurposed the rest of the fund to help implement other parts of the healthcare law.

"I thought we had an agreement that last year was it, that that $5 billion was it," Harkin said.

He said prevention is key to actually lowering healthcare costs. 

Harkin said the federal government is paying ever-increasing healthcare bills without investing in prevention, and then wonders "like clueless dodos" why costs continue to rise.