Burwell, whose nomination must be approved by the U.S. Senate,
will replace Kathleen Sebelius, who became the public face of the
disastrous rollout of Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable
Care Act, which Republicans plan to exploit as they seek to take
control of the Senate.
But Obama made it clear he did not blame Sebelius for the problems.
In remarks interrupted multiple times by sustained cheering from
White House and administration officials, he praised Sebelius,
saying she will go down in history for her work implementing
"She's got bumps, I've got bumps, bruises," Obama said.
"Yes, we lost the first quarter of the open enrollment period with
the problems with HealthCare.gov. And there were problems," he said.
"But under Kathleen's leadership, her team at HHS turned the corner,
got it fixed, got the job done, and the final score speaks for
itself," he said, noting that 7.5 million people have signed up for
health insurance under the program, exceeding expectations.
praised Burwell for her management skills and her help guiding the
administration through a 16-day government shutdown last fall.
[to top of second column]
"Sylvia was a rock, a steady hand on the wheel who helped navigate
the country through a very challenging time," he said.
Sebelius chuckled throughout Obama's speech, and then gave her
critics some fodder by declaring there was a glitch in her speech.
"Unfortunately, a page is missing," she said.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Steve
Holland; editing by Doina
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