Former top WI health official sits for federal confirmation hearing

President Joe Biden nominates Andrea Palm, former secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, to be the number two at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She faced questions during her confirmation hearing on Thursday, April 15.

She was the masked face of Wisconsin's response to the coronavirus pandemic and while Wisconsin Senate Republicans never confirmed her, in Washington Thursday, she sat for her confirmation hearing.

"It's true they held up her nomination for months during an unprecedented global health crisis," said Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin).

Palm grew up in a small town in New York, worked for Senator Hillary Clinton and then served in the Obama administration's HHS department before taking the job as secretary-designee of the state DHS.

Andrea Palm

"When I was previously at HHS, then-Secretary Burwell would joke that if there was an issue that was going to require bipartisan cooperation, the team should give it to me," said Palm. "She called my portfolio the 'common ground agenda,' and if I have the honor of being confirmed and returning to HHS, that’s what I’m bringing with me – a common ground agenda."

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She couldn't find much common ground with Wisconsin legislative Republicans. They won their lawsuit against her extended "Safer at Home" order.

Now-Congressman, former Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader, Scott Fitzgerald wrote a letter to U.S. senators urging them to reject Palm.

"I wanted them to understand, kind of, the frustration, and ultimately, I think both the governor and the secretary’s willingness to just basically thumb their nose at the statutes, thumb their nose at the law in Wisconsin and do whatever they thought was within their powers. And it was completely unacceptable, and that’s basically what the Supreme Court said," said Fitzgerald.

Andrea Palm

Palm told U.S. senators her focus will be ending the pandemic, getting vaccine in arms, expanding affordable health care and cutting drug prices.

Some of the toughest questions came from Finance Committee Republicans asking what she’d do about young migrants at the border.

"I think it’s a very urgent need," said Palm when asked whether it's a crisis.

She added that she has not been to the border.

"Have you seen those photos with really no COVID protocols in place?" asked Senator Steve Daines (R-Montana).

"I have, Senator, and I can tell you, as a social worker, the care and safety of those kids has to be our top priority at HHS and if I’m confirmed, I certainly will," said Palm.

An Health and Human Services official told FOX6 News they were pleased with Thursday's hearing. That source said the Senate Finance Committee will move the nomination as quickly as the calendar allows. After asking written questions, the committee will vote to send Palm's nomination to the full Senate.

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