Politics & Government

Democrats target Trump’s health and human services choice, warn nomination could fail

Senate Democratic leaders are ready to wage war against Rep. Tom Price, D-Ga., President-elect Donald Trump’s pick as Health and Human Services secretary.
Senate Democratic leaders are ready to wage war against Rep. Tom Price, D-Ga., President-elect Donald Trump’s pick as Health and Human Services secretary. AP

Democrats pledged Tuesday to wage a vigorous war questioning Tom Price’s nomination as secretary of health and human services, centering on his sympathy for privatizing Medicare.

“He is going to get a lot of very strong and very thorough questions about the kinds of things that he has proposed,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who will be the Senate’s Democratic leader next year. “And if he sticks with them, I think there’s a chance that his nomination will fail.”

Schumer accused Republicans of “plotting a war on seniors next year.”

Price is the first Trump pick to draw such fierce, organized opposition. But it’s going to be tough to derail the Georgia congressman’s nomination.

“I doubt he has any problems getting confirmed,” said Darrell West, vice president of governance studies at Washington’s Brookings Institution, a research group. Price is a member of Congress and a physician, West said, and has expertise in healthcare.

The GOP is expected to control 52 Senate seats next year, one more than he needs for confirmation.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which will consider the nomination, had kind words for Price.

“He can see the view from the doctor’s office as well as from the lawmaker’s office,” Alexander said.

Price, who chairs the House Budget Committee, has been an advocate of privatizing Medicare. But Trump has not supported that view.

Trump said last year “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican. And I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid. Every other Republican’s going to cut.” He posted those comments on his campaign website.

All Price needs to do, said a top Republican who asked not to be named, is to say he’ll support his boss on Medicare, and that should defuse any controversy.

Democrats plan to be relentless in painting Price as an ogre. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., called him “someone who supports dismantling Medicare, slashing Social Security, gutting women’s health services, and eliminating healthcare for 20 million people.” She is the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee’s healthcare subcommittee.

The finance committee is also expected to hold hearings on the nomination.

David Lightman: 202-383-6101, @lightmandavid

 

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