WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- U.S. health and human services secretary nominee Michael Leavitt drew praise from lawmakers at a Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday.
The ranking Democrat on the Senate Health Committee, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., praised the "impressive skills" of the former Utah governor and outgoing head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Committee chairman Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., said that Leavitt, "has the abilities to help keep our health care system responsive and our safety net intact to protect the most vulnerable among us."
For his part, Leavitt pledged to prioritize the implementation of the 2003 Medicare overhaul law and the reauthorization of the 1996 welfare reform law, before lawmakers this year.
He also called for more flexibility in the way states can manage federal Medicaid dollars.
After his expected Senate approval, Leavitt will oversee the second largest federal agency with an annual budget of $580 billion.
The agency contains more than 300 programs and sub-agencies, including the Head Start early education program, the Food and Drug Administration FDA, Centers for Disease Control CDC, National Institutes of Health NIH, Medicare and Medicaid.