The Senate Finance Committee took a preliminary vote this morning to advance President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to the full Senate.
However, because many of the votes were made by proxy, the committee will take another vote on Seema Verma's nomination later today, but it looks likely they will pass on a recommendation for confirmation to the full Senate. The votes were 15-11 with proxy votes but tied 9-9 without proxies. Under the committee rules, proxy votes do not count.
Verma is the president, CEO and founder of SVC Inc., a national health policy consulting company. She has worked on the redesign of Medicaid programs in several states, including Vice President Mike Pence’s approach as governor for Indiana’s Medicaid expansion plan, which requires beneficiaries to pay small premiums.
Despite some concerns over her business arrangements with Hewlett Packard that may have been in conflict with her public role when she advised Pence on healthcare issues while he was governor of Indiana, it is expected that the Senate Finance Committee will vote to recommend Verma’s nomination to the full Senate.
During her confirmation hearings in mid-February, Democrats expressed frustration that Verma offered few specifics on her stance on Medicaid block grants, vouchers, Medicaid privatization and strategies to reduce or negotiate with drugmakers over drug prices.
But in his announcement about the upcoming executive session, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said he believes Verma has the knowledge and private sector experience necessary to lead the CMS.
“Under the Obama administration, the responsibilities and purview of CMS grew at an alarming rate, in large part as a result of Obamacare. Coupled with the challenges facing both Medicare and Medicaid, we need a leader like Seema Verma to work alongside Congress as we work to improve the administration of our entitlement programs and refocus the responsibilities of the agency on patients, not the Washington bureaucracy,” Hatch said.
“Throughout her confirmation hearing she demonstrated a clear vision for addressing the challenges facing CMS, and I look forward to advancing her nomination through the Committee for full Senate consideration.”
Editor's Note: This story was updated to include the Senate Finance Committee vote. The original version announced the committee would meet in an executive session for the vote.