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POLITICS: PennAve

Sen. Tim Scott declines to promise to support Silvia Burwell for health secretary

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Sen. Tim Scott declined to say that he will vote to confirm President Obama's nominee for health secretary Sunday morning, instead hinting that Republican senators will use the confirmation process to get the White House to clarify Obamacare sign-up numbers and other politically sensitive information relating to the health care law.

The conservative South Carolinan previously voted for the nominee, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, when she was unanimously confirmed as the director of the Office of Management and Budget in a 96-0 vote.

In an interview on Fox News Sunday, however, Scott said that "there’s no doubt that she was a good choice for OMB, that doesn't mean she’s a good choice for HHS."

During the confirmation hearings for Burwell, Scott said, Republicans are "going to have the opportunity to discuss with director Burwell her approach to making sure that the American people are the primary objective, and not politics.”

In particular, Scott said, he and other Republicans on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will want to dig into the White House's claims about sign-ups for health insurance through the law's exchanges and learn how many of those represent paid enrollments, and also learn about rising premiums and any further delays -- information, Scott said, that wasn't easy to draw out of former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who presided over the poor roll-out of the law and stepped down earlier in the week.

"We have not found a place that we can hear what they say and see what they did and have those be the same thing,” Scott said of his interactions with Sebelius and the administration.

Speaking on the same program, Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse acknowledged that "it probably is a good thing to have a new face going forward" for the HHS.

Whitehouse said that Burwell “brings a strong set of credentials,” including her previous efforts to reach out to congressional Republicans, especially in her role facilitating the budget agreement reached between the two parties in December.

Following Senate Democrats' decision last year to invoke the "nuclear option" and remove the filibuster for executive nominees, Democrats will not need Republican votes in confirming Burwell if she clears the committee level.

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