The Senate confirmed Rep. Tom Price to be the next secretary of health and human services in an early-morning vote on Friday ahead of a showdown on the future of Obamacare.
The Georgia Republican was approved along party lines amid concerns of ethics violations that led Democrats to boycott Price’s vote out of committee last week. His nomination was filibustered on the Senate floor Wednesday night before it was broken, allowing by Senate rules 30 hours of debate before a vote.
Price is the latest of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees to survive a contentious process. The vote in favor of Price was 52-47. He’s the ninth of 17 of Trump’s Cabinet to be confirmed by the Republican-led Senate.
Democrats voiced concern over reports Price was privy to preferential stock sales, which is illegal for members of Congress. A Wall Street Journal report detailed a special stock sale Price, who served in the House of Representatives for 12 years, was given last year. He was allowed to purchase shares in an Australian biomedical company, Iannate Immunotherapeutics, at a 12 percent discount.
Under oath during his confirmation hearing, Price denied his purchase was a “sweetheart deal.” He has also been accused of introducing and supporting legislation that would benefit companies in which he owned stock.
Republicans are eager to get Price in place amid a rush to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The battle will be a difficult one as the party scrambles for a plan that won’t jeopardize health coverage for the 20 million insured under Obamacare. Price favors replacing the law with health savings accounts and tax credits, proposals Democrats say will fail to adequately cover medical expenses.
Even Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has crossed the aisle to support every one of Trump’s Cabinet nominations save Betsy DeVos for education secretary, confirmed Thursday he would not be supporting Price over the ethics concerns. Vice President Mike Pence, who serves as the Senate president, was forced to cast a vote in favor of DeVos to break the 50-50 tie.