Washington: Republicans won Senate confirmation of President Donald Trump’s choice for health secretary today in the testy chamber’s fourth consecutive brawl over Cabinet picks.
Senators approved Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., to head the Health and Human Services Department by a strictly party-line 52-47 vote in the dead of night. A debate that Democrats prolonged until nearly 2 AM EST today was dotted with bitter accusations, reflecting the raw feelings enveloping Washington early in Trump’s presidency.
No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas said Democrats’ “obstruction” of Cabinet nominees was a rejection of Trump’s Election Day victory and threatened “the stability of the government and that peaceful transition of power” from President Barack Obama.
Citing Price’s long-time support for revamping the Medicare program for the elderly, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that with Price’s confirmation, “The Republicans launch their first assault in their war on seniors.” Trump has said he won’t cut Medicare.
Republicans see Price, an orthopedic surgeon and seven-term House veteran, as a knowledgeable leader who will help scuttle Obama’s health care overhaul, partly by issuing regulations weakening the law. Democrats describe an ideologue with a shady history of trading health care stocks and whose policies will snatch insurance coverage from Americans.
“He seems to have no higher priority than to terminate health coverage for millions of people,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. She said his preference for limiting women’s access to free birth control was “not only wrong, it’s arrogant.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Price, 62, “knows more about health care policy than just about anyone.” He said Price would help “bring stability to health care markets that Obamacare has harmed.”
Price’s nomination is part of a larger clash in which Republicans want to quickly enact priorities long blocked by Obama. Democrats, with few tools as Congress’ minority, are making a show of resistance, stretching some floor debates to the maximum 30 hours Senate rules allow.