Senate confirms Trump's Health chief

Senate confirms Trump's Health chief
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The Senate confirmed Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services during a 2 a.m. vote Friday.

No Democratic senator supported Price in the 52-47 vote. He overcame an initial procedural hurdle on Wednesday evening along party lines.

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With the GOP's 52-seat hold on the Senate and only a simple majority required, Democrats don't have the manpower to block any nominees on their own.

But they signaled early on that Price would be a top target and spent hours on the Senate floor ahead of the vote protesting his confirmation because of his support for nixing the Affordable Care Act and overhauling Medicare.

“Make no mistake: In the dark hours of the early morning, with the confirmation of Secretary Price, the Republicans launch the first assault in the war on seniors,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles SchumerTougher Russia sanctions bill facing another setback Trump claims GOP has a 'big surprise' on healthcare Senate Dems step up protests ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote MORE (D-N.Y.).

Democrats argue Price’s positions are out of line with Trump's campaign promises, among them that he wouldn’t cut entitlement programs.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP touts FBI look into Sanders’s wife New Alexandra Pelosi documentary brings together GOP, Dem members Sanders: FBI inquiry of wife is 'pathetic' attack MORE (I-Vt.) called Price — who has previously backed privatizing Medicare — the "exact opposite" of what Trump campaigned on.

"My opposition to Congressman Price has less to do with his well-known extreme right-wing economic views than it has to do with the hypocrisy and dishonesty of President Trump," Sanders said.

Price, who was chairman of the House Budget Committee when nominated, said late last year that Republicans would move to overhaul Medicare within six to eight months of Trump’s inauguration.

He also voiced support in 2015 for a proposal to reduce Medicare costs by delivering benefits through a voucher program.

Democrats are all but guaranteed to use the vote on Price, and his position on Medicare, to target Sens. Dean HellerDean HellerMedicaid becomes big threat to GOP’s healthcare revival Koch-backed group launches new ads on tax reform Overnight Healthcare: GOP infighting erupts over bill | How Republican governors could bring down ObamaCare repeal | Schumer asks Trump to meet with Dems MORE (Nev.) and Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeOPINION: ObamaCare by another name is still ObamaCare Senate should seek to retain its 'blue slip' tradition for judicial nominees Progressives target Heller and Flake on Senate GOP bill MORE (Ariz.) — two Republicans up for reelection in 2018.

Price faced a rocky confirmation battle, also coming under fire for a growing number of reports about his stock trading as a member of Congress.

CNN and Time reported last month that he had invested in health-related companies shortly before introducing or supporting legislation that benefited them. Price denied wrongdoing, adding that he made the investments through a broker.

But Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren goes on tweetstorm over GOP ObamaCare repeal bill Warren: Dems should campaign on single-payer healthcare plan Senate Dems step up protests ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote MORE (D-Mass.) — in her first floor speech since she was temporarily banned from speaking on Tuesday night — said Price should be disqualified for “basic ethics.”

"He should have withdrawn his nomination weeks ago, and if he didn't go voluntarily, the president and his friends in Congress should have quietly but forcefully pushed him out," she said.

The Wall Street Journal also reported last month that he received a 12 percent discount on his purchase of biomedical stock.

But Republicans never publicly signaled that they were wavering on Price. They believe getting him confirmed is key to syncing up with the White House on the plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Trump and congressional Republicans — as well as House and Senate lawmakers — have at times struggled to get on the same page about a timeline for repealing ObamaCare or how to replace it.  

They included a Jan. 27 date for repeal proposals in a budget bill passed earlier this year, but lawmakers acknowledged at the time that they wouldn't meet the deadline.

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynUnresolved issues, very little time for Senate GOP GOP infighting erupts over healthcare bill Senators urge Trump to do right thing with arms sales to Taiwan MORE (R-Texas) said Thursday that he hopes confirming Price will speed up the process.

“After seven years we’ve got all kinds of great ideas, but we have to come together behind one,” he told reporters.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellMedicaid becomes big threat to GOP’s healthcare revival Unresolved issues, very little time for Senate GOP Valerie Jarrett slams GOP for not including women in healthcare discussions MORE (R-Ky.) praised Price separately as the “right man” for to lead the department.

“Price knows more about health care policy than just about anyone. He doesn’t just understand health care policy as a policy maker … he also understands it as a practicing physician,” he said. “He gets the real-world impact.”