Burwell Confirmed as HHS Secretary

Sylvia Mathews Burwell has been confirmed by the Senate as the secretary of HHS by a vote of 78 to 17. Having served for the past year as the White House’s budget director, Burwell is scheduled to be sworn into the position of secretary on Monday, June 9, 2014.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said Burwell had attracted “a choir of bipartisan support” because “she is really that good, she is really that capable, and she is really that qualified,” reported the Washington Post. Once sworn in, Burwell is set to take over the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148), a process for which HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has recently been criticized.

Burwell’s Nomination

Following Sebelius’ resignation announcement on April 11, 2014, President Obama nominated Burwell, stating, “I could choose no manager as experienced, as competent, as my current Director of the Office of Management and Budget [(OMB)].” Previously, Burwell served as the deputy director of the OMB and as the deputy chief of staff for the Clinton Administration. Burwell also held the position of president for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program, later becoming the Foundation’s CEO.

Senate Confirmation

Under Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the president shall appoint officers of the United States “by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” When a nomination is made, the question before the Senate is “Will the Senate advise and consent to this nomination?” According to a report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), “Only a majority of Senators present and voting, a quorum being present, is required to approve nomination.” Now that Burwell has been confirmed, she will take over as the 22nd secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services after she is sworn in on Monday.