January 31, 2017

Senate Dems boycott, block vote on Trump's HHS pick

Daily Briefing

    This is a developing story

    Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday boycotted a planned Senate Finance Committee vote to report President Trump's nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) for HHS secretary to the full Senate.

    The committee was also scheduled to vote on advancing the nomination of Steven Mnuchin to lead the Treasury Department.

    Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said committee rules required at least one Democrat to be present in order for a vote on nominees to occur. Hatch said he would schedule another markup for a later date.

    "I can't understand why senators, who know we're going to have these two people go through, can't support the committee," Hatch said. "Some of this is because they just don't like the president ... This is the most pathetic thing I've seen in my whole time in the United States Senate."

    Democrats opted not to show up at the Senate Finance Committee hearing room on Tuesday after arguing that Price and Munchin had misled Senators during their testimony, The Hill reports.

    Finance Committee Ranking Member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) referenced a Wall Street Journal report published Monday that said "contrary to his congressional testimony this month," Price in June received "a privileged offer to buy [Innate Immunotherapeutics] stock" at a 12 percent discount off the traded price.

    Wyden said that Price in his congressional testimony "insisted he didn't get special access to a special deal," Wyden said. "He misled the congress and he misled the American people."

    Committee member Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Price "outright lied to our committee."

    Background on new Wall Street Journal report

    Price in his hearings before the Senate Finance and Senate HELP committees said the discounts on the Innate Immunotherapeutics stock "were available to every single individual that was an investor at the time."

    However, Innate Immunotherapeutics told the Journal that fewer than 20 investors in the United States were invited to purchase the shares at that price. The discounted price was available to all Australia and New Zealand shareholders, but not U.S. shareholders, the company confirmed.

    Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), Innate Immunotherapeutics' largest shareholder and a company director, told the Journal the he invited Price to participate in the offering. Price previously said he has purchased shares after discussing the company with Collins.

    Following earlier reports of Price purchasing discounted Innate Immunotherapeutics stock, Democratic lawmakers called for an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission into whether Price violated the STOCK Act, which prohibits lawmakers from trading stock based on political insider information.

    According to the Journal, a Price spokesperson declined to comment for the story and instead referred to earlier statements in which Price said he disclosed all his trades and had not broken the law. 

    Price has said he would divest his financial interests in 43 companies—including Innate Immunotherapeutics—to avoid conflicts of interest if he is confirmed as HHS secretary.

    Details of Price confirmation hearings

    In hours of previous confirmation hearings, Price discussed a wide range of health care issues. For instance, he said:

    • CMS' Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) "has great possibility and great promise," but that he opposes CMMI making certain payment models mandatory;
    • It is "not [the administration's] goal or our desire, nor is it our plan" to have people lose their health coverage under a repeal of the ACA;
    • He no longer supports proposals to privatize Medicare, but that he would work to "save and strengthen" the program;
    • He accepts scientific evidence that vaccines do not cause autism; and
    • Many health care providers have left practice because of burdensome regulations, such as those implemented under the meaningful use program, but that health IT can play a role in boosting care at critical access and rural hospitals.

    (Baldwin et al. statement, 1/30; Grimaldi, Wall Street Journal, 1/30; Clark/Hall, McClatchy, 1/30; Sullivan, The Hill, 1/30; Wyden tweet, 1/31; Owens, Axios, 1/31; Schroeder, The Hill, 1/31; Lee/Killough, CNN, 1/31).

    Navigating the first 100 days of the Trump administration

    xxx

    Since Donald Trump won the presidential election in November, health care reform has since quickly risen to the top of the GOP's policy agenda—and heath care executives are grappling with a new sense of uncertainty.

    While many unknowns will remain across the next few months and potentially even years, the first 100 days of the Trump administration will provide significant insight into the direction of reform efforts. Read our briefing to learn what five key issues you should watch.

    Download the briefing

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