WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama, in tapping Sylvia Mathews Burwell to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, said her small-town upbringing and managerial experience could help smooth the continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
“Sylvia is from a small town, Hinton, W.Va. So she brings the common sense you see in small towns,” Obama said Friday morning. “She brings the values of caring about your neighbor and ordinary folks to some of the biggest and complex challenges of her time.”
Obama introduced Burwell, 48, as his nominee to replace outgoing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at an announcement from the White House Rose Garden. The president recognized Sebelius’ service and Burwell’s abilities to become the new face of his massive healthcare overhaul.
“She’s a proven manager who has demonstrated her ability to field great teams, forge strong relationships and deliver excellent results at the highest levels and she’s done it at both the public and private sectors,” Obama said.
Burwell, a Rhodes scholar, served in the Clinton White House and has also worked with the Wal-Mart Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Obama said Friday that during last October’s shutdown of the federal government, Burwell was “a rock, a steady hand on the wheel who helped navigate the country through a very challenging time.”
Burwell only spoke for about 90 seconds during Friday’s nomination announcement. She said she was humbled, honored and excited to build on the achievements of the president and Sebelius.
“If confirmed by the Senate I look forward to carrying on the important work of ensuring that children, family and seniors have the building blocks of healthy and productive lives,” she said.
Burwell will have about five months on the job before the next open enrollment period for the ACA set for Oct. 1.
Former West Virginia Democratic Party Chairman George Carenbauer, speaking Friday on MetroNews “Talkline,” said Burwell was extremely qualified.
“She’s had very broad experience. She’s head of OMB (Office of Management and Budget), which means she knows how the budget works,” Carenbauer said. ” You’ve noticed Sen. (John) McCain has said he thinks she’s a great choice for the position. She worked in the White House for eight years as deputy chief of staff.”
Obama said Burwell’s leadership would be crucial as the Affordable Care Act attempts to take its next step.
“Sylvia is a proven manager and she knows how to deliver results. And she’ll need to be a proven manager because these are tough tasks, big challenges,” he said.