The Senate Finance Committee took another vote on Thursday and advanced the nomination of Seema Verma to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Her nomination will now be sent to the full Senate for a vote.
The committee met on Wednesday in an executive session to consider President Donald Trump’s pick for the position, but not all the members were there and the vote was tied 9 to 9. An earlier vote of 15-11 included proxies, but the proxy votes do not count under committee rules.
On Thursday, the Senate committee met again and voted 13-12 in favor of her nomination, Healthcare Dive reported.
Despite opposition from several Democrats, who expressed frustration during the confirmation hearings that Verma wasn’t forthcoming with her answers to questions on Medicaid block grants, vouchers and Medicaid privatization, it appears likely that the committee will approve her nomination Thursday and send it to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.
In his opening statement, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, indicated his full support for Verma, a healthcare policy consultant, who has worked with several state governments, including the state of Indiana and Vice President Mike Pence when he was governor, to improve and modernize their Medicaid systems.
“If we’re going to make the needed changes to fix our healthcare system, we need competent and willing partners at CMS who will work with Congress to find the best solutions and then effectively implement those solutions,” Hatch said.
“Moreover, if we’re ever going to tackle our growing entitlement crisis and preserve our federal health programs—as well as Social Security—for future generations, we need to take hard looks at the system now and find common ground on improvements that will extend the life of these important programs. Therefore, we need leadership at CMS that will both recognize the problems these programs face and understand the importance of the programs to the populations they serve.”
But Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., ranking member of the Finance Committee, opposed the nomination and said he was disappointed that Verma’s answers to his written questions about Medicare in rural health communities and prescription drug costs were “worse, not better,” than what she said during the committee hearings. He said the responses were a lot of “happy talk” that didn’t amount to much substance.
“I don’t expect to see eye-to-eye with every nominee in the Trump administration,” Wyden said, “but I think as a bipartisan concern, Democrats and Republicans on this committee deserve good faith answers to questions because we are the committee of jurisdiction and this agency [CMS] controls a trillion dollars.”