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U.S. Senate clears way for Burwell's health secretary confirmation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Wednesday cleared the way for lawmakers to decide on Thursday whether to confirm Sylvia Mathews Burwell as President Barack Obama's new health secretary.

Senators voted 67-28 to approve a procedural measure limiting debate on Burwell's nomination to no more than 30 hours, allowing a final confirmation vote to move forward sometime on Thursday. Senate approval is widely expected.

A confirmation vote allowing Burwell to take over implementation of Obamacare from departing U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius could help open a new chapter for Obama's healthcare law just five months before November's midterm congressional elections.

After last year's botched rollout of the Obamacare website Healthcare.gov, Republicans made the Affordable Care Act a top issue in their campaign to take control of the U.S. Senate.

Burwell, a skilled technocrat who is widely respected by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, had been serving as Obama's budget director. She is expected to keep the healthcare law out of troubled waters between now and Election Day, according to Democrats.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey)

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