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Sylvia Mathews Burwell appears before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee for her confirmation hearing Thursday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
May 8 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama’s choice as the next health secretary, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, sailed through her first appearance before Congress today unscathed, picking up support from two Republicans in the process.

Barring any problems uncovered in a background investigation under way by Senate staff, Burwell, the current director of the Office of Management and Budget, is likely to succeed Kathleen Sebelius as the next leader of the Department of Health and Human Services. She’ll also take over as chief administrator of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the $1.4 trillion expansion of health insurance.

Burwell provided a vigorous defense of Obamacare at a congressional hearing today where the law took center stage, saying that it had reduced federal health spending and improved the lives of millions of Americans. Republican allies, while parting with her on the issue, said she was highly qualified to lead the health department.

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