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Judges won't delay confirmation during appeals

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RALEIGH (AP) - The Latest on the confirmation hearing for North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper's choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (all times local):

1:15 p.m.

A panel of trial court judges won't delay enforcement of their ruling earlier this month that upheld a new law directing the North Carolina Senate to subject Gov. Roy Cooper's Cabinet secretaries to confirmation hearings and votes.

The three judges Wednesday denied in a two-sentence order the request by Cooper's private lawyers to halt confirmations by putting the judges' decision on hold while they appeal.

Cooper has sued to block three laws approved in December by the Republican-controlled legislature that reduce or check his powers. The judges threw out the laws limiting his authority in carrying out elections and that gave civil service job protections to hundreds of former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's political appointees. But the judges wrote the state Constitution doesn't prohibit a law establishing a confirmation requirement.

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12:25 p.m.

The head of North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services has cleared her first hurdle to Senate confirmation with relative ease.

A Senate committee voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend Dr. Mandy Cohen after less than an hour of questioning.

Senators sounded impressed with her credentials, which include degrees from Yale and Harvard, working as a physician and later at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. She was a top administrator in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

Committee co-chairman Sen. Ralph Hise asked Cohen whether she believed it was illegal to attempt to expand Medicaid without the legislature's OK. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper submitted some Medicaid expansion paperwork with federal regulators in January before Cohen was sworn in, but Republican lawmakers blocked Cooper in court. Cohen told Hise it's clear the legislature has a role in approving Medicaid eligibility changes.

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2:35 a.m.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's pick to lead a massive North Carolina department overseeing Medicaid, mental health services and other programs is likely to get some tough questions from Senate Republicans scrutinizing her appointment.

The Senate Health Care Committee scheduled a confirmation hearing Wednesday for Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of health and human services. Cohen was a top administrator for then-President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, which many Republicans oppose.

The confirmation process is new this year after the Republican-controlled legislature passed a law subjecting the Democratic governor's Cabinet choices to scrutiny by the Senate. Cooper sued to halt the confirmation process but a three-judge panel sided with GOP lawmakers.

Cooper is appealing. Three Cooper secretaries already have been confirmed in unanimous votes by the full Senate.

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