Burwell, ahead of confirmation hearings, talks O-Care menu regs

President Obama's nominee to be the next secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) took time recently to discuss with concerned lawmakers a contentious ObamaCare regulation requiring calorie counts on restaurant menus.

The meetings with senators, revealed in administration records, come as the Senate considers White House budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s nomination to replace Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

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At issue in last week's meetings between Burwell and the Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) was the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) soon-to-be finalized rule requiring chain restaurants with 20 or more locations to disclose the number of calories in their food.

The measure, a provision of the Affordable Care Act, was designed as a way to help consumers make healthy choices and fight obesity.

However, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have raised objections to the regulation, arguing that it goes beyond Congress’ intent and would create painful new expenses for certain businesses, including delivery joints and eateries, like pizza restaurants, that specialize in made-to-order dishes.

Blunt and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) responded with the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, meant to tamp down on the FDA’s ability to impose regulations that store owners say would be nearly impossible to fulfill.

The rule is listed as economically significant, in that it carries an estimated annual impact of $100 million or more.

Blunt’s office did not respond to a request for information about the meeting, also attended by other White House and HHS staff.

Burwell is scheduled for a confirmation hearing Thursday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Blunt is not a member of the panel.

Burwell also met with Harkin, the panel’s chairman, to discuss the same rule on April 29, according to additional records posted by the Office of Management and Budget.