The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will kick off the vetting of HHS Secretary-designee Sylvia Matthews Burwell with a confirmation hearing on May 8th. Burwell, currently the head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), will also have to go before the Senate Finance Committee in the coming weeks. While many Washington watchers seem to be reasonably confident of her eventual confirmation, the hearings are expected to be acrimonious and to focus heavily on the Affordable Care Act.

Republican critics will likely dig into a slew of issues including the botched rollout of the exchanges, the administration’s actions to delay or amend several pieces of the law, rising costs of coverage and other negatives. Democrats will likely mount a vociferous defense ofthe law, focusing on the more than 8 million persons enrolled in exchange plans and be armed with plenty of vignettes of newly covered individuals. The hearings will be a precursor to the campaign rhetoric we will see more of in the weeks and months ahead, as we move closer to the November mid-term elections.