Senate Republicans Wish HHS Nominee Sylvia Burwell Good Luck Steering the Titanic

Sylvia Mathews Burwell's confirmation hearing was not the tense, partisan fight over Obamacare some Republicans promised. It was actually pretty lame. 

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Sylvia Mathews Burwell's Senate confirmation hearing was not the tense, partisan fight over Obamacare some Republicans promised. It was actually pretty lame. The consensus was that Burwell is a great choice manage, in Sen. John McCain's words, the Titanic mess that is the Department of Health and Human Services. Republicans — at least the ones who showed up — praised Burwell's leadership skills and recommended her, despite their objections to the health care law she would help enforce.

Burwell's biggest supporter on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee was McCain, a known opponent of Obamacare. McCain tweeted last month that she was an "excellent choice" and continued to praise her on Thursday. “Regardless of my objections to the Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services needs competent leadership,” McCain said during the hearing. “I believe Ms. Burwell has the qualifications to run Health and Human Services.” If anything, he thought she was better for the job than the job would be for her. "After all," he said, "who would recommend their friend take over as captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg?”

Other Republicans followed suit. Sen. Lamar Alexander said Burwell had " a reputation for competence," and Sen. Richard Burr said he would vote for Burwell because she has “a portfolio of experience that would make her a tremendous asset,” according to The New York Times.

This was a far cry from the tense fight Sen. Ted Cruz and other Republicans promised last month, when Secretary Kathleen Sebelius first announced she was stepping down. Cruz said the hearing, "presents an ideal opportunity to examine the failures that are Obamacare,” last month, according to Politico. “This is not going to be another 96-nothing vote that she enjoyed as OMB director,” a Republican leadership aide told theWashington Examiner last month. “This is going to be a fight.” Sen. Tim Scott said in April on Fox that “there’s no doubt she was a good choice for OMB,” but “that does not necessarily make her a good choice for HHS.”

Of course, there's still time for the kind of colorful and rowdy hearings that Secretary Sebelius went through when Obamacare launched. The Senate Finance Committee will vote on Burwell sometime in the near future, after its own hearing.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.