CMS pick Seema Verma gets one step closer to confirmation

Seema Verma, Trump's pick for head of CMS
Seema Verma

The Senate agreed on Thursday to end the debate over the nomination of Seema Verma as the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and set up a final confirmation vote that will likely take place early next week.

The 54-44 vote once again fell mostly across party lines, with 43 Democrats voting against ending the discussion. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also voted nay. Two Senators, Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., did not vote.

Despite opposition from Democrats, it is likely she will be confirmed next week.

Verma is the president, CEO and founder of SVC Inc., a national health policy consulting company. She has close ties to Vice President Mike Pence, with whom she worked on Indiana’s Medicaid expansion plan when he was governor.

During her confirmation hearings last month, Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee were frustrated that Verma provided few specifics about her stance on Medicaid block grants, vouchers, Medicaid privatization and strategies to reduce or negotiate with drugmakers over drug prices. They also questioned whether her business arrangements with Hewlett Packard conflicted with her public role when she advised Pence on healthcare issues while he was governor.

Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., ranking member of the Finance Committee, said last week he was opposed to her nomination and was disappointed that her written answers to questions lacked substance.

But during his daily White House briefing on Thursday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Senate democrats were trying to unnecessarily delay her confirmation. "At this critical time when we are talking about healthcare, it’s ironic that they refuse to consider someone with such amazing expertise in this area," he said. 

Verma, he said, is "unquestionably and uniquely qualified for her position, and especially now that health reform is at the top of the President's agenda, it's time to get her in place."

If confirmed, Verma will play a big role in efforts to reform Medicare or Medicaid.