Sylvia Mathews Burwell won over (most) of the Senate on Thursday when she was confirmed 78 to 17 as the next secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. But, based on a New York Times Burwell profile, there might be a logical explanation for her bipartisan appeal: Burwell, who grew up in a small town in West Virginia, was really popular in high school.
Before the vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Burwell's embrace of Obamacare was reason enough to reject her nomination. "In my view, the Senate shouldn't be focusing on a new captain for the Titanic. It should focus on steering away from the iceberg," McConnell said, according to The Huffington Post. But despite Senate Republicans' attempts — or threatened attempts — to block Burwell's confirmation, the head of the Office of Management and Budget enjoyed a relatively easy path to confirmation. Twenty-four Republicans, including Sens. Lindsey Graham and Orrin Hatch, voted to confirm her.
And while it's surprising for a nominee to win bipartisan support, the Times profile of Burwell depicts someone with a long history of being well regarded. Burwell was valedictorian, student body president, Summers County Junior Miss, and all of the most important most likelys: most likely to succeed, most studious, prettiest eyes, best personality, best dancer, most dependable, best dressed, and best all-around. More important, the Times paints Burwell as someone who has stayed connected to her roots. “Because she’s from West Virginia — Hinton, a town of about 3,000 people — she comes to Washington with a lot of common sense,” Republican Sen. Tom Coburn said at Thursday's hearing.
During an earlier hearing last month, Sen. John McCain said he "believed Ms. Burwell has the qualifications to run Health and Human Services" despite his "objections to the Affordable Care Act." Other Republicans said she had a "portfolio of excellence" and "a reputation for competence." Hopefully she'll add one more: most likely to convince Republicans that in her "most dependable" hands, Obamacare isn't the Titanic.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.