On Wednesday morning, the Republican controlled Senate Finance Committee suspended the rules of quorum, which require at least one member of each party to be present for a vote, and pushed through Tom Price’s nomination to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services, sending it to the full Senate for a vote. They also voted to move forward with the nomination of Steve Mnuchin for secretary of the Treasury.
The Committee’s chairman Orrin Hatch said, “Long story short we took some unprecedented actions today due to the unprecedented obstruction on the part of our colleagues.”
This bold move came on the second day that Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee boycotted the vote to move forward with the nominations of Price and Mnuchin, denying the Committee of the required quorum and stopping the vote.
Democratic members sent a letter to Hatch to explain why they chose to boycott the vote, stating, “Both nominees have yet to answer important questions that impact the American people. Further, we have significant concerns that both Mr. Mnuchin and Congressman Price gave inaccurate and misleading testimony and responses to questions to the committee. These Cabinet nominees should answer basic questions about their records before we move forward with a committee vote.”
Democrats accused Price of misleading the Committee, specifically concerning his denial that he purchased of over 400,000 shares of stock in an Australian pharmaceutical company at a discounted price not available to other investors.
Senator Wyden said Tuesday, “I asked Congressman Price directly if he got an exclusive discount on stock in an Australian biomedical firm, and he said no.” Wyden continued, “From the committee’s investigation to company documents to the company officials’ own words, the evidence tells a different story. It looks more and more like Congressman Price got special access to a special deal.” A Finance Committee background investigation found that Price had undervalued those investments and “claimed income tax deductions that he could not substantiate.”
The Department that Price seeks to lead manages an annual budget of over $1 trillion, oversees health insurance of more than 100 million Americans, including setting Medicare policies, controls the agencies that regulate food and drugs, and directs funds to biomedical research. Under this position, he will also be responsible for the Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
The Senate is expected to vote on his nomination next week.
Resources: Feminist Majority Foundation 1/31; US News 2/1; Atlanta Journal Constitution 2/1; Huffington Post 1/31/17; Senate Finance Committee 2/1/17