Dems push to postpone vote on health secretary

Dems push to postpone vote on health secretary
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Senate Democrats want to delay a vote on the nomination of President Trump's pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services amid ethics concerns. 

The Senate Finance Committee is slated to vote on the nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) Tuesday morning, but four Democrats are urging a pause because of "serious concerns" about "outstanding and significant questions about [Price's] qualifications and ethical conduct."

Democratic Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayBiden signs four bills aimed at helping veterans On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall MORE, Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenFranken rules out challenge against Gillibrand for Senate seat Franken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' MORE, Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinWisconsinites need infrastructure that is built to last  Wisconsin senators ask outsiders not to exploit parade attack 'for their own political purposes' Senate Democrats call on Biden to push for COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers at WTO MORE and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren calls on big banks to follow Capital One in ditching overdraft fees Crypto firm top executives to testify before Congress Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker won't seek reelection MORE asked in a letter to Senate leadership that the vote be postponed until Price answers questions about his financial investments.

All four sit on the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP), which questioned Price earlier this month. 

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"A vote has been scheduled to advance Rep. Price's nomination even though he has not responded to questions submitted by members of the HELP Committee following his January 18 testimony, and in spite of serious concerns regarding Rep. Price's financial investments," reads the letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellUS could default within weeks absent action on debt limit: analysis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown Senate dodges initial December crisis with last-minute deal MORE and Senate Finance Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchLobbying world Congress, stop holding 'Dreamers' hostage Drug prices are declining amid inflation fears MORE
 
Price should also "and has provided documents sought in connection with his inappropriate and potentially illegal investment activities," the letter said. 
 
It's unlikely that Republicans will move to delay the vote. Hatch last week dismissed questions about Price's stock holdings as "grossly exaggerated" and "distorted." 
 
The letter follows another report out Monday detailing Price's alleged conflicts of interests.
 
The Wall Street Journal reported that Price was part of an exclusive group that was able to buy stock in a biotech company at a discount.

Price was among fewer than 20 people that received a 12 percent discount on shares of Innate Immunotherapeutics.

The company's statement appears to contradict Price’s testimony to the Senate Finance Committee last week, when he said that the discounted shares “were available to every single individual that was an investor at the time.” 

Senate Democrats have raised questions about Price’s trading of medical stocks while a member of Congress, in particular the purchase of the biotech shares.

Price has said he bought the stock after discussing it with Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), a member of the company’s board. Democrats say that could violate the STOCK Act, which prevents lawmakers from trading on congressional information.  

Senate Democrats have called for the ethics office and the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whether Price broke the law. 

Republicans have dismissed questions about Price’s stock trading and appear to remain firmly behind his nomination. 

It seems Price could be confirmed strictly on party lines. Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) formally announced Monday that he would oppose Price, and not a single Democrat has publicly backed the nominee.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate parliamentarian looms over White House spending bill Democrats push tax credits to bolster clean energy Five reasons for concern about Democrats' drug price control plan MORE, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said late Monday that he would vote against Price's nomination Tuesday. 

Wyden said Price "seriously misled" the public about his background. 

“I cannot support nominees who treat disclosures like shell games and ethics laws like mere suggestions," Wyden said in a statement. 

Wyden declined to tell reporters Monday how the other 11 Democrats on the committee would vote. 

"Let's put it this way: I have been talking all weekend with Finance Democrats. Certainly, there's very significant concern on these issues."