President Obama on Friday formally nominated Sylvia Mathews Burwell to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) following the botched resignation of Kathleen Sebelius.
Burwell served in several positions under the Bill Clinton administration, including as a deputy aide to then-budget director Jack Lew. In July 1995, Burwell (then Sylvia Mathews) was one of several key aides questioned by the Senate Whitewater Committee regarding the death of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster.
Foster’s death was officially ruled a suicide. The Clinton White House eventually admitted to misleading investigators about how senior officials had seized and disposed of files relating to the first couple’s controversial investments in the Whitewater Development Corporation, a failed real estate venture.
Clinton spokeswoman Dee Dee Myers admitted that then-White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum, who had recovered documents relating to the Whitewater controversy from Foster’s office after his death, did not turn over the documents to the Clinton family’s personal attorney, contrary to what White House officials had claimed. Nussbaum had actually given the documents to Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, who placed them in a White House safe for five days before being turned over to the family attorney.
Under questioning, Sylvia Mathews and her colleagues denied impeding a police investigation into Foster’s death after his body was found in a northern Virginia park. According to the New York Times, Mathews testified “in laborious detail about what she had found in Mr. Foster’s garbage on the night he died.”
That experience may come in handy as she prepares to oversee the implementation of Obamacare.