Obama's HHS Pick Advances With Republican Support

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Obamacare is about to have a new ringleader, and she has both parties' approval.

In a procedural vote Wednesday afternoon, the Senate voted 67-28 to invoke cloture on the nomination of Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to head the Department of Health and Human Services—all but securing her confirmation. The Senate is likely to hold a final vote Thursday, and Burwell is expected to be easily confirmed.

Assuming she is approved, she will be the first major appointee to be confirmed since the Senate invoked the "nuclear option," requiring only 51 votes for approval, instead of 60.

Burwell will replace outgoing Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who announced her resignation in April, following the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov. Republicans had been calling for her departure for months, but Sebelius remained in the post through the end of the health care law's first open-enrollment period, now leaving behind a much-improved enrollment system and a tally of more than 8 million sign-ups—exceeding the administration's goal.

Yet Burwell is set to inherit a post that carries a great deal of baggage, and she will be in charge of implementing a law that is still mired in political upheaval and public disapproval. Democrats and Republicans alike have cited her leadership abilities and strong management style as evidence that she is up to the task.

The presumed next HHS chief has commanded the respect of both parties since before her nomination: Burwell was approved for her current OMB post on a 96-0 vote. Before today's full Senate vote, she sailed through two confirmation hearings, in front of the Senate Finance and the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committees.

Burwell's nomination is now subject to up to 30 hours of post-cloture debate before the final vote.

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