Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Thursday that he would vote against President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the implementation of Obamacare, and said the Senate should instead spend its time on repealing the law.
The Senate is expected to approve Sylvia Burwell as the next secretary of Health and Human Services early Thursday afternoon. But McConnell said he would vote against her, in large part because she supports the 2010 healthcare law.
“Her embrace of this disastrous law is reason enough to oppose her confirmation,” he said on the Senate floor. “So I’ll be voting against this nominee because I think we need to focus on repealing and replacing this law, not trying to do the impossible by pretending we can make it work.”
McConnell was previously quiet on whether he would support Burwell, and indicated that he has more problems with the law itself than he has with Burwell’s nomination. On Thursday, McConnell said Congress is making a mistake by thinking a personnel change will matter.
“When it comes to the task of implementing this ill-conceived and disastrous law, the president may as well have nominated Sisyphus, because as I indicated, Ms. Burwell is being asked to do the impossible here,” he said.
“In my view, the Senate shouldn’t be focusing on a new captain for the Titanic. We should focused on steering away from the iceberg.”
McConnell argued that no one would be able to make the law work, as the Obama administration showed with its struggles just to fix the HealthCare.gov website.
“If they can’t even get a website fixed after spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, how can they possibly regulate such a huge sector of our economy in an effective way?” he asked. “How can any administration official possibly repair all the broken Obamacare promises?
“The question answers itself. They can’t. The nominee before us can’t, no one can. The problem is the law itself.”
In recent weeks, press reports surfaced saying the government may have overpaid hundreds of thousands of people with subsidies to buy health insurance, and has no way of knowing whether those people were eligible for that money. McConnell said that example of waste is just what Republicans warned about when the law was being passed.
Burwell was confirmed unanimously in the Senate to serve in her current post as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Many Republicans are expected to vote against her Thursday afternoon, but some are expected to support the nomination — after McConnell spoke, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he would vote for her, but wants her to improve the implementation of the law.
Burwell only needs to be confirmed by a simple majority vote, so she’ll be confirmed even if every Republican votes against her. On Wednedsay, the Senate advanced the nomination in a 67-28 vote.
Also Wednesday, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) offered five pieces of advice for Burwell once she takes over at HHS.