Senate Republicans mounted little resistance Thursday to Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President Obama's nominee to replace Kathleen Sebelius as Health and Human Services secretary.
While several of senators played up their opposition to ObamaCare, most Republicans called Burwell a qualified pick, and several went out of their way to praise the former Clinton administration official as uniquely suited to lead HHS.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) preemptively referred to Burwell as "secretary" and described her "incredible" experience with the Walmart Foundation, where she managed a charity budget of more than $1 billion.
The warm welcome at the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee was a notable contrast from last fall, when lawmakers fought intensely in hearings over the path of ObamaCare's rollout.
A final floor vote has not been scheduled, but Democrats have the simply majority needed to confirm Burwell. Read more here.
Hagan hits back: One of the hearing's strongest endorsements of the healthcare law came from vulnerable Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan (N.C.), who blasted officials in her state for refusing to expand Medicaid. "As a result," she said, "about 500,000 people who would have qualified for coverage through Medicaid are not now able to do so... These are some of the most vulnerable in our society." The comments were an implicit dig at North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R), her opponent, who was instrumental in the state's decision to turn down the federal funds. Republicans have aggressively targeted Hagan for her support of Obamacare. Read more at Talking Points Memo.
Veterans bill set for vote: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has set up a procedural vote on a bill that would allow companies to hire veterans without counting them as full-time employees. This would let employers forgo the 50-employee threshold to provide insurance and instead allow veterans to be covered under TRICARE.
Regulating e-cigarettes: Democratic Senators are urging the FDA take into consideration that e-cigarettes may be harmful not just to smokers but those around them as the agency finalizes a rule regulating tobacco products. The new rules would require e-cigarette makers to register new products with the FDA and provide evidence for claims they help reduce tobacco addiction.
Premiums may see double-digit rise: A study examining ObamaCare enrollment numbers says premiums in some states may rise into the double-digits. According to the report by Avalere Health increases in the cost of medical care and use of services as well as new technology will likely contribute to the rise of healthcare insurance premiums.
STATE BY STATE
New Mass. insurance website estimated to cost $121m
Arizona offers 'sneak peak' at cost of shifting kids off CHIP
Alaska Planned Parenthood amends abortion funding suit
Expanding Medicaid increases access to subspecialty procedures, researchers say
Report: Federal exchange a comparative bargain
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED AT THE HILL
House Veterans committee subpoenas Shinseki
Shinseki to testify before Senate panel
Excitement over healthcare spending may be overblown
McCain makes cameo appearance to praise Obama’s HHS nominee
White House claims $13B in savings from streamlined regs
Health insurers laud Burwell ahead of hearing