Republicans are relishing the chance to use confirmation hearings for Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President Barack Obama’s nominee as U.S. health secretary, to re-energize their election-year attacks on his signature healthcare initiative.
Republicans, who are seeking to take control of the Senate in the Nov. 4 congressional elections, view a pair of Senate hearings for Burwell as their best chance to put a spotlight on Obamacare since the program’s botched rollout in October.
Burwell’s first hearing is scheduled for May 8 before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. She is expected to testify later before the Senate Finance Committee at a date yet to be set.
Republican strategists say the more dramatic moments in the hearings, where Burwell will face a litany of tough questions from Republican lawmakers, could yield rich material for television ads and social media campaigns.
“Ultimately, it may be Republicans’ only opportunity, certainly before the end of the summer and maybe before the election, to have a senior administration official available to answer these questions,” said Lanhee Chen, who advised Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on domestic policy during the 2012 campaign.
One Republican aim is to trip up the 48-year-old White House budget director and force embarrassing slip under the glare of the televised proceedings.