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 MurrayHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Dems introduce bill to tackle 'digital divide' Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates MORE, Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenWinners and losers from first fundraising quarter Election analyst says Gillibrand doesn't have 'horsepower to go the full distance' Gillibrand campaign links low fundraising to Al Franken backlash: memo MORE, Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Democratic proposals to overhaul health care: A 2020 primer More than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts MORE and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenJulián Castro: Trump should be impeached for trying to obstruct justice 'in very concrete ways' Poll: Biden tops Sanders nationally Pete Buttigieg: 'God doesn't have a political party' 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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem candidates sell policy as smart politics Overnight Defense: Trump ends sanctions waivers for buying Iranian oil | At least four Americans killed in Sri Lanka attacks | Sanders pushes for Yemen veto override vote McConnell: 'Time to move on' from Trump impeachment talk MORE and Senate Finance Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchHatch warns 'dangerous' idea of court packing could hurt religious liberty Former Democratic aide pleads guilty to doxing GOP senators attending Kavanaugh hearing How do we prevent viral live streaming of New Zealand-style violence? 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 WydenOn The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost Government report says new NAFTA would have minimal impact on economy Hillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech 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."