POLITICS: PennAve

Senate vote puts Sylvia Burwell on track to head HHS

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Barack Obama,Obamacare,Senate,OMB,Health Care,PennAve,Sean Lengell,Kathleen Sebelius,Senate Finance Committee,HHS,Sylvia Mathews Burwell

Sylvia Mathews Burwell's bid to become the nation's new health secretary cleared a major hurdle Wednesday, as a key procedural vote on her nomination easily passed the Senate.

Despite partisan rancor overshadowing many significant White House nominations in recent years, 14 Republicans voted in favor of President Obama's pick to succeed the embattled Kathleen Sebelius to lead the Health and Human Services Department.

The overall tally was 67-28, with all Democrats supporting Burwell and 28 Republicans rejecting her. A final vote on her nomination is expected Thursday, with her confirmation almost a certainty.

"Ms. Burwell is an outstanding choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services as it continues to implement the Affordable Care Act," said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the chamber's No. 4 Democrat. "I am confident Ms. Burwell's strong management skills, deep experience, integrity and passion for helping others will allow her to serve families and communities .... effectively in this new role."

Burwell, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, received a generally warm reception during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee last month. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., called her "remarkably responsible" and "a great listener," while Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said she was qualified for the job.

If confirmed, Burwell would head an agency still reeling from the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act's website, healthcare.gov. Republicans blamed the Obamacare problems largely on Sebelius and accused her of not being forthcoming with Congress.

Burwell promised at her confirmation hearing to try her best to be responsive to Capitol Hill.

"I take the issues very seriously," she said. "I actually hope that there will be actually direct communication if there are concerns."

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

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