Democrats Grill Trump HHS Nominee Over Stock Trades, Obamacare Plans

ByABC News
January 24, 2017, 3:16 PM

— -- Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, fended off accusations from Democrats that he acted improperly as a member of Congress by trading shares of a pharmaceutical company, while offering few concrete details about the president’s plans for an Obamacare replacement or entitlement reform.

The physician-turned-lawmaker was questioned early in the hearing by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., regarding a series of trades he made in an Australian pharmaceutical company. The company could benefit from a bill passed by Congress to expedite the drug approval process.

Democrats have questioned whether Price acted on inside information after learning about the company from Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., a major shareholder. Price has flatly denied that he violated the STOCK Act.

“Doesn’t this show bad judgment?” Wyden asked.

“No,” Price responded. “The reality is that everything that I did was ethical, and above board and transparent.”

Tuesday's hearing follows a Senate committee review of Price's tax returns from 2013, 2014 and 2015, in addition to other financial documents. The review found that Price didn't include late property tax payments and undervalued pharmaceutical stock on his disclosure forms, according to a bipartisan committee memo obtained by ABC News.

Price did not disclose an ethics investigation into his fundraising practices either, the memo said, though the House Ethics Committee ultimately found no wrongdoing.

Price said Tuesday that the filings had been corrected. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, blasted Democrats' line of questioning: "I have never seen this level of partisan rancor when it comes to dealing with a president from an opposing party."

The Office of Government Ethics has approved Price's plan to divest himself of all medical-related stocks and assets that could pose potential conflicts of interest.

Price had few details about Republican plans to repeal and replace Obamacare, arguing that his role as an administrator will be to implement the laws Congress passes and carry out the president’s directive.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, asked Price if the replacement will be revealed once he is confirmed, as Trump has suggested.

“It’s true that he said this, yes,” Price replied.

“Did he lie to the public about working with you?” Brown asked.

“I’ve had conversations with the president about health care, yes," Price said, later adding that the goal is to provide all Americans with access to health insurance, rather than the universal coverage Democrats have aimed to achieve.

Later in the hearing, he suggested Democrats were trying to score political points against him. “We know what’s going on here, and I understand. And as my wife tells me, I volunteered for this," he said.

Asked about the implementation of an executive order Trump signed to begin the dismantling of Obamacare, Price told Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., that he wouldn't use the order to begin rolling back the law before a replacement is passed.

"Our commitment is to carry out the law of the land," Price said.

Despite his support of converting Medicaid to block grants in his budget proposal as chairman of the House Budget Committee last year, Price would not directly answer questions from Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., about whether he still supports changes to the program.

"What I believe in is a Medicaid system responsive to the patients and provides the highest quality care possible. And I would respectfully suggest to you that that's not the Medicaid system we currently have," Price said.

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