Sylvia Mathews Burwell is ready for combat duty as the Obama administration's point person on healthcare reform.
Earlier this month, President Barak Obama nominated Burwell, 48, currently director of the Office of Management and Budget, to succeed HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. In addition to overseeing the Medicare and Medicaid programs, which account for 85% of the agency's nearly $1 trillion budget, Burwell's portfolio will include the departments that regulate food and drugs, dispense federal research dollars and track infectious diseases.
Recent favorable comments by Senate Republicans—who unanimously supported her confirmation as OMB director one year ago—suggest she will be easily confirmed unless she commits a major gaffe during the hearings this month. Critics have grumbled about Burwell's lack of business or healthcare background, though most recent HHS secretaries also had no prior healthcare experience.