President Donald Trump’s controversial pick for health secretary Tom Price won the Senate confirmation by a 52-47 vote early Friday. Senators approved his new role in the dead of the night on a strictly party-line vote. Democrats staunchly opposed the confirmation and pushed the debate until 2 a.m.
As Democratic senators kept pouring bitter accusations, GOP leaders accused them of “obstruction” of Cabinet picks as revenge on Trump for his surprise Election Day victory. Some Republicans said the rival party was a threat to the government and peaceful transition of power.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, however, was displeased with Price for his opposition to Medicare, a federal health insurance program that benefits U.S. seniors. Schumer said the new nomination was a first assault in the GOP’s “war” against the elderly. Trump had pledged not to undo Medicare.
Republicans, on the other hand, think Price is the perfect man for the job as an orthopedic surgeon and House veteran. They hope the newly confirmed health secretary will help them undo Obamacare and come with a viable replacement.
Democrats, though, accuse Price of being an ideologue that has a stake in health care stocks. They also think he will leave millions of Americans without health insurance.
He seems to have no higher priority than to terminate health coverage for millions of people,
noted Sen. Jeanne Shaheen during the confirmation hearing.
In addition, Sen. Shaheen described Price’s stance against free birth control for women as “wrong” and “arrogant”. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell intervened and praised Price for his expertise in health care policy. McConnell voiced hope the new HHS secretary would normalize the health insurance markets that Obama administration harmed.
With Price in charge of the HHS, Republicans want to streamline the priorities that the former president often blocked. Democrats, on the other hand, know they are outnumbered in both chambers so they try to make Republicans’ lives harder by stretching confirmation debates up to the maximum of 30 hours. Other tools used by Democrats to make their voices heard were boycotts of hearings which prompted Republicans to suspend committee rules to confirm their nominees. The GOP went as far as to bar Sen. Elizabeth Warren from speaking during Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, said Democrats want to scare people with “apocalyptic visions of a future world gone mad” if Trump’s picks win the confirmation. Hatch also wondered how Democrats managed to keep themselves in a permanent state of outrage without becoming completely exhausted.
Democratic senators said that the newly elected president has shaped a Cabinet that will work for “those at the top” and harm workers and their families.
When he served as the head of the House Budget Committee, Price vowed to rollback Obamacare and replace it with tax-exempt health savings accounts, tax credits, and higher premiums for sicker and older patients. Republicans however haven’t agreed yet on a replacement plan.
Price also wants to cut federal funding to abortion provider Planned Parenthood and revamp Medicaid. He also wants to empower states in shaping a health care program for low-income patients and strip guaranteed health coverage from the elderly and replace it with subsidies for old patients to buy policies.
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