(Adds details and background)
WASHINGTON May 21 The Senate Finance Committee
easily approved the nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell as U.S.
health secretary on Wednesday, sending her candidacy to the
Senate floor for a final confirmation vote.
In a show of congressional bipartisanship, eight Republican
lawmakers joined 13 Democrats to back President Barack Obama's
choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services and
oversee its implementation of Obamacare, Obama's signature
domestic policy achievement.
Three Republicans opposed the nomination: Pat Roberts of
Kansas, John Cornyn of Texas and John Thune of South Dakota.
Burwell, a 48-year-old technocrat known for being able to
work with Democrats and Republicans in Congress, is also
expected to see a smooth confirmation following two cordial
Senate confirmation hearings.
It is unclear when the full Democratic-controlled Senate
will take up the nomination. Democrats had hoped to wrap up the
matter before Monday's Memorial Day holiday, but aides recently
suggested the confirmation vote could occur in early June.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office had no immediate
At least one Republican, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana,
has said he will vote against Burwell's confirmation.
Administration officials and their Democratic allies hope
Burwell's replacement of outgoing U.S. Health and Human Services
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will open a less contentious chapter
for Obamacare, formally known as the Patient Protection and
Affordable Care Act.
Since last year's botched rollout of the federal website
HealthCare.gov, the 2010 healthcare law has become a major
campaign issue for Republicans who are trying to win control of
the Senate in November's congressional elections.
Democrats say Burwell's main task will be to avoid further
problems with Obamacare's implementation in hopes of minimizing
its negative impact on Democratic candidates.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Bill Trott and Paul