Senate confirms Alex Azar as new Health and Human Services secretary

Alex Azar replacing Tom Price as HHS secretary.

— -- The U.S. Senate today confirmed Alex Azar as the next secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services with a vote of 55-43.

It has been almost four months since Tom Price stepped down as secretary of HHS after a Politico investigation showing his use of private jets for official department business became an embarrassment for President Donald Trump and the White House.

"I think that broad expertise will serve him well, particularly at this critical time when the HHS Secretary will need to be intensely focused on the opioid epidemic and other major problems facing our country.

“No doubt all of these are reasons why we reported Mr. Azar out of the Finance Committee with a bipartisan vote."

Azar, who conceded that "every incentive in the system is towards higher prices" for drugs, said he is committed to lowering costs. During his hearing at the Senate Finance Committee, Azar outlined his four main priorities as lowering drug prices, making health care more affordable, improving Medicare through technology, and tackling the opioid epidemic.

"We need a voice to reject such damaging ideological decisions and to champion evidence, science and sound policy-making," Murray said. "I do not believe Mr. Azar is that champion.”

The Department of Health and Human Services, one of the largest nondefense agencies in the federal government, has an annual budget of over $1.1 trillion and over 79,000 full time employees.