Skip to comments.Sylvia Mathews Burwell pick complicates Democrats' plans
Posted on 04/13/2014 5:00:41 PM PDT by Din Maker
Senate Democrats planned to spend the spring ramping up their election-year message on income inequality not relitigating Obamacare. Change of plans.
That leaves the Senates most vulnerable Democrats veering back to the very issue that has become their biggest political liability heading into the midterms. For now, at risk Democrats up for reelection this fall are proceeding with caution.
A spokesman for Sen. Mark Udall said the Colorado Democrat will examine Burwells record and hearing testimony, as with any nominee, before making up his mind.
Shripal Shah, a spokesman for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, said the New Hampshire Democrat has a tremendous amount of respect for Director Burwell, her experience, and her qualifications. Shes looking forward to considering her nomination.
Aides to Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, John Walsh of Montana, Mark Warner of Virginia and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana all declined to respond to multiple requests for comment.
Its an even money proposition to be voting to replace [Kathleen] Sebelius, one senior Senate Democratic aide said. Whatever week or weeks the hearings or votes will take place, its not the topic we would choose if we could choose any topic. But its not bad a thing to be voting to replace Sebelius.
Burwells confirmation to replace Sebelius at HHS is nearly assured. With the historic rules changes on most executive and judicial branch nominations last November, Democrats need only 51 votes to confirm her, and the party controls 55 votes in the chamber.
But if Republicans are mostly united in opposing Burwell, the support of red-state Democrats will be crucial. Democrats hope the 96-0 vote last April for Burwell as Office of Management and Budget director, her credentials and her respected reputation will smooth the path to her confirmation. And, importantly, some moderate Senate Democrats who arent up for reelection are enthusiastically backing Burwell, which could give their colleagues cover to also support her.
Sen. Joe Manchin introduced Burwell a fellow West Virginian at both her confirmation hearings last spring, and stressed her bipartisan relationships in a statement praising her HHS nomination. He added that installing Burwell as HHS chief will ensure that commonsense fixes to Obamacare will be enacted.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) said she hoped the Senate rallies around the nomination of Burwell, who Heitkamp said understands how to put good ideas to work to help families who need it.
Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, called Burwell a brilliant choice. Shell be confirmed easily, he said in an interview. Im sure that at her confirmation hearings, there will be a lot of talk about the Affordable Care Act. Shes in a great position because she doesnt have any baggage. For Republicans, last years unanimous support for Burwell matters little in an environment where Obamacare and how Burwell would continue the health care laws implementation will be the chief focus. Republican senators are sure to question Burwell on whether shell work with Congress on Obamacare tweaks, if the administration exceeded its executive authority with delays to deadlines in the law, and for more details on Obamacares enrollment numbers, GOP aides said.
The Republican message, according to one senior aide: We would argue that there is no person on earth capable of making this horrible law work.
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, said Burwell has a comparatively thin resume to run an agency with the size and scope of Health and Human Services and indicated that he was unimpressed with her performance so far as budget director. And in an interview with Fox News on Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Burwells confirmation presents an ideal opportunity to examine the failures that are Obamacare.
Still, for now there is little concern among Democrats that she will ultimately be confirmed even if they get few Republican backers. So far, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is the rare Republican signaling support, tweeting that Burwell is an excellent choice for HHS. Burwell will undergo hearings in both the Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, though the confirmation vote will be held in Finance. A committee aide said the panels chairman, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), plans to schedule a hearing soon after it receives Burwells nomination materials. A committee mark-up seems likely in early May. She is likely to face a full floor confirmation vote in late May or early June, since the Senate isnt likely to shuffle its immediate schedule for her confirmation. White House press secretary Jay Carney said Friday he is anticipating a May transition for Burwell to HHS.
Democrats say the political environment on Obamacare has largely changed with positive enrollment numbers, which could help ease Burwells confirmation process. On Thursday, Sebelius in her final Hill appearance before her resignation was made public said more than 7.5 million people on Obamacare exchanges.
The timing is also early enough this election year to avoid the heat of the campaign season, and one Democrat noted that fierce GOP opposition may backfire if they attack a female nominee in confirmation hearings. Another fact Democrats may raise is Burwells leadership at the point agency during last falls government shutdown triggered by a fight over defunding Obamacare a political loser for Republicans.
She was unanimously confirmed last April to head the Office of Management and Budget, where she has proven to be an extremely effective leader who is able to work constructively with both Democrats and Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Friday. Director Burwell deserves timely confirmation, and I hope my Republican colleagues will work with us to ensure we fill this important position without unnecessary obstruction and delay.
Up yours Harry. I hope they find a reason to drag it out until after Labor Day.
she should answer why the WWII memorial was shutdown last fall.
she should answer why the WWII memorial was shutdown last fall.
Good point. Hope to goodness some Pubbie has the ‘nads to bring it up.
Man I hate this pathetic, drooling, raspy voiced "My Friends" dinosaur! If there ever were a RINO Hall of Fame, McCain would be its Honus Wagner.
yet nobody will mention Vince Foster ....
Just what did this criminal remove from dead vince foster’s office?
1. Of course Reid wants "timely confirmation." He doesn't want this to drag into the prime of the campaign season, where it becomes fodder for Republicans to attack their opponents.
2. Of course his "Republican colleagues will work with us..." It's what they've been trained to do.
3. This is why Reid used the nuclear option to change the Senate rules on filibusters for nominations, something the Republicans were cowards to attempt to do and suckers to think that Democrats wouldn't do it after their supposed goodwill gesture (again, trained to do). Reid knows that he can ram this nomination through with 51 votes as fast as he wants to, and Republicans can't stop it.
The real question is: What advantage is there to Sebelius resigning and Burwell being offered as the nominee at this point. Republicans cannot fall into a trap on this gambit. Think this through on how it should be played. You can go back to Foster’s trash can blah blah blah. That is not how you want to play this. I think the ploy will be a numbers game along with an ignorance of the HHS facts. She is just there to get them through 2014. Suggestions?