Knowing that they cannot sink his nomination, and having no extraordinary reasons to oppose him, Senate Democrats have decided to boycott Tom Price’s Finance Committee confirmation vote — the senatorial equivalent of throwing a temper-tantrum. This eleventh-hour spectacle from elected officials so lately waxing panegyrical over “democratic norms” is unseemly. Price, surely the most qualified nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services in a generation, deserves an up-or-down vote.
Democrats indicated early in the nomination process that they would be targeting Price for special abuse. An orthopedic surgeon by trade, and a health-care expert during his decade as congressman for Georgia’s Sixth District, Price, if confirmed, would be responsible for overseeing the likely rollback of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and Democrats would prefer to have someone more malleable.
But rather than acknowledging principled differences of opinion with Price — because that would be a de facto concession that he’s not, in fact, “beyond the pale” — they have repaired to trumped up conflict-of-interest charges. Recently, CNN reported that Price purchased “$1,001 to $15,000 worth of shares” in biotech company Zimmer Biomet in March 2016, days before introducing the Healthy Inpatient Procedures (HIP) Act, “legislation that would have delayed until 2018 a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regulation that industry analysts warned would significantly hurt Zimmer Biomet financially once fully implemented.” In fact, his financial adviser purchased just under $2,700 worth of shares as part of a routine diversification of his portfolio; the purchase was disclosed on House financial documents within a month; and Price had publicly announced his opposition to the CMS regulations at issue in September of the previous year.
Democrats have also gone so far as to accuse Price of “insider trading,” for his purchase of stock in Australian biotechnology company Innate Immunotherapies, which he discovered via New York congressman Chris Collins, who owns part of the company. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal declared that Price “got a privileged offer to buy a biomedical stock at a discount, the company’s officials said, contrary to his congressional testimony this month.” Again, the story did not reflect the facts. Innate Immunotherapies CEO Simon Wilkinson has criticized the story as inaccurate, emphasizing that the “privileged offer” was made to all “accredited investors,” and that every accredited investor was offered the same price. Collins, in an e-mail to CNN, emphasized that Price’s above-board investment has been dishonestly framed as “some kind of insider special deal.”
Making the accusations more galling are the sources: Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, for example, who in 2010 took $90,000 to testify in a class-action lawsuit brought by retailers against several large banks at the same time she was heading the congressional panel overseeing the $700 billion bank bailout.
None of the Democrats’ specious charges has frightened away Senate Republicans, several of whom have come to Price’s defense against the coordinated character assassination. Johnny Isakson, Price’s Senate colleague from Georgia, wrote in USA Today recently: “After 30 years of friendship and working together, I can say that Tom is absolutely trustworthy and accountable. . . . Dr. Tom Price is the right man, at the right time, for the right job.”
Indeed. During his decade in Congress, Price has at every turn resisted the further encroachment of tentacular federal bureaucracies into doctor’s offices and proven himself a formidable advocate for patient-centered health-care policy. He has put forward a detailed Obamacare-replacement plan, while working with Republican colleagues to temper the worst consequences of President Obama’s signature legislation. He has been staunchly pro-life.
In 2009, and again in 2014, President Obama’s two HHS nominees — Kathleen Sebelius and Sylvia Burwell, respectively — were confirmed by large Senate majorities. Tom Price, who would be the first doctor to head HHS since the George H. W. Bush administration, is more than qualified to replace them. But Democrats, rather than do their job, have opted to indulge in a bout of hysterics.
It’s time to grow up. Tom Price deserves a vote.