President Joe Biden’s pick to be the second in command at the Health and Human Services Department, Andrea Palm, was confirmed Tuesday by the full Senate.
The Senate approved 61-37 the nomination of Palm to serve as deputy secretary. Palm previously headed the Wisconsin Department of Health Services—overseeing its $12 billion budget and over 6,000 employees—and served as the HHS’s chief of staff and as senior counselor to the secretary during the Obama administration.
Much of her new job will involve managing the operations of the $1.3 trillion department and the development and approval of all regulations that come through its agencies.
The vote came 19 days after the Senate Finance Committee advanced her nomination. Her nomination received bipartisan support from the panel’s members.
Her confirmation comes at a critical point for the Biden administration in battling the pandemic. The death toll for the Covid-19 pandemic is at over 580,000 people, and the department’s key agencies are working with acting officials because many of their leaders await Senate confirmation.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra was confirmed March 18, and two other appointees have since taken their posts.
Palm was originally trained as a social worker. She told senators her experiences working with children and families helped shape her career and move her toward public service and public policy work.
Brooks-LaSure Vote on Tap
Meanwhile, Senate leaders Monday announced plans to advance Chiquita Brooks-LaSure’s nomination to a floor vote the same week.
Brooks-LaSure’s nomination was slowed by opposition from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) after the Biden administration disapproved a 10-year extension of his state’s Medicaid waiver. The waiver now expires at the end of fiscal year 2022, and the program will likely need tweaks after that.
Cornyn demanded assurances from health officials that Texas could maintain the waiver before releasing his hold. A Cornyn spokesman Tuesday said the senior Texas senator made little progress and would not end his opposition.
This means Democrats will likely need to be unified in their support of Brooks-LaSure to get her confirmed.
Texas Democrats have been lobbying the White House to hold course and make changes to Texas’s Medicaid waiver that could steer the state toward expanding its Medicaid program.
Brooks-LaSure previously coordinated Medicaid policy at the Obama White House and worked at the House Ways and Means Committee.