HHS Vacancies On Agenda for Spring

On April 11, President Obama nominated Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  (HHS). Current health secretary Kathleen Sebelius will stay in the role while the Senate works the confirmation process for Burwell.  It is hoped that Burwell, the current Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), will not require extensive Senate evaluation since she received 96 votes when the Senate approved her in that OMB role back in late April, 2013. Previously, Burwell served at the White House during the Clinton presidency and worked in the private sector for Walmart and the Gates Foundation in the time between the two Democratic Presidents’ terms. Concern over possible delays is in regards to the potential that some Senators may attempt to make a statement on the Affordable Care Act by delaying her nomination. She has to testify before two Senate committees, the Finance Committee and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), but only the Finance Committee will actually vote on her nomination.

In addition to the pending nomination for health secretary, currently, HHS also has a pending nomination for Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and a vacancy for Commissioner of the Administration on Children Youth and Families (ACYF). The latter position was left open when Bryan Samuels stepped down last year. The Senate Finance Committee must approve the ACF position. Maria Cancian was nominated on February 12 by President Obama for that office. The Administration for Children and Families has jurisdiction over eighteen offices that cover most of the services that are outside of health care and research including child welfare, welfare, child care, Head Start, refugee assistance, Native American services and community services. The last time the position was filled by a confirmed Assistant Secretary was in September of 2009 when President Obama appointed Carmen Nazario. Assistant Secretary Nazario served until the following summer when she had to leave the position due to family issues.

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