The following comes from an April 28 The Hill article by Peter Sullivan:
Democrats are crying foul over the Republican blockade of a top Health and Human Services (HHS) nominee who has been ensnared in a dispute over abortion.
Mary Wakefield’s nomination to be deputy HHS secretary, the department’s No. 2 position, was once noncontroversial, but Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee dropped her from a panel session last week to approve nominees after objections.
Republicans are delaying action on Wakefield’s nomination because they say HHS is dragging its feet on an investigation into whether California violated federal law by requiring all health insurers in the state to cover abortions, sources say.
“I think she’s very qualified, and she shouldn’t have her nomination caught up in yet another anti-abortion discussion,” Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the Finance Committee’s top Democrat, told The Hill.
At issue is a California agency’s decision in 2014 to require all health insurers in the state to cover abortions. Republicans say that order was a clear violation of the federal Weldon Amendment, which prevents discrimination against health insurers who decline to cover abortions.
The HHS Office for Civil Rights, which is charged with enforcing the Weldon Amendment, said in December 2014 that it had opened an investigation into the state of California’s actions after the California Catholic Conference filed a complaint.
More than a year later, the investigation is not complete.
HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell admitted under questioning at a congressional hearing in February that her department had moved too slowly in the investigation.
“I am not satisfied with our speed,” she said, while noting that while the probe is still open, she could not discuss any further details.
Wyden said Wakefield, who is currently serving in an acting capacity as deputy HHS secretary, should not be blamed for the delay.
“She has nothing to do with [it], no past trouble on any of those issues,” he said.