How Tom Price’s stock trading could impact his Senate confirmation

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Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, left, meets with Secretary of Health and Human Services-designate Rep. Tom Price, R- Ga., Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Real talk: We had a short and sweet Morning Jolt with several “Seinfeld” references queued up for you to mark this most glorious day of Festivus. That was until a little Tom Price news threw a wrench into our evening…

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Initially, we had an item ready about how Democrats, essentially powerless from stopping Cabinet nominees such as Price, were planning to frame him and several of Donald Trump’s other picks as out-of-touch hard-liners in order to make the Senate’s confirmation vote as painful as possible for the GOP.

But The Wall Street Journal’s bombshell report that Price, the Roswell congressman Trump tapped for secretary of health and human services last month, traded more than $300,000 in shares of health-related companies while sponsoring legislation that could impact those businesses, could rip up everyone’s playbooks back in D.C.

Democrats now have more ammunition as they make the argument that Price is a bad fit to lead the government’s largest non-defense department.

And Republicans will now have a much harder time ignoring that criticism. Not only does the news raise questions of conflict of interest amid Trump’s “drain the swamp” push, but it comes from a newspaper that’s well respected by the GOP, making it much harder to write off.

Trump’s transition team circled its wagons around Price yesterday, arguing that he fully complied with “all applicable laws and ethics rules.” (A 2012 law bans members and employees of Congress from using “nonpublic information” for their own financial benefit, but they generally get some leeway.)

All of this, of course, is up to the interpretation of the senators vetting Price. Assuming all Democrats band together against him, it could take as few as three Republican senators switching their votes from ‘yay’ to ‘nay’ to change the orthopedic surgeon’s fate, which until yesterday seemed pretty sealed.

We’ll be keeping tabs throughout the holiday weekend, so check back here for updates.

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The marijuana initiatives passed in several other states last month ordinarily would have injected new life into the push to expand Georgia’s tiny medical cannabis program. But this year was no ordinary year.

From the desk of our AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin:

…Advocates must now wonder whether the incoming Trump administration will quash their enthusiasm. While the president-elect himself has said marijuana policy should be left up to the states, his nominee for attorney general, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., has been a fierce critic of the drug, which remains federally classified as a harmful and illegal substance.

 

 State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, the driving force behind the 2015 creation of Georgia’s limited marijuana operation, said he will ask lawmakers in 2017 to at the very least expand the number of conditions that qualify for the state’s program. His “home run” scenario is for his legislative colleagues and Gov. Nathan Deal to agree to a narrowly tailored in-state program to grow and cultivate cannabis for medicinal purposes.

 

 Peake said more than 1,000 Georgians are now registered to legally possess cannabis oil to treat one of eight conditions that qualify for the program. The positives of the program far outweigh any negative, he said.

 

 “The sky has not fallen,” Peake said. “We’ve not seen a significant uptick of people driving while intoxicated with medical cannabis oil. It hasn’t become a public health hazard.”

Read more about Peake’s push here and whether it could have any legs in 2017.

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Native son Jimmy Carter may be the only former president to attend Donald Trump’s inauguration next month.

Politico reports that George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have yet to make their decisions, while a spokesman for George H.W. confirmed that the elder Bush won’t be attending due to his age.

Carter announced his plans to watch Trump’s swearing in earlier this month.

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The holidays are a time for family. And if you’re in the presence of one of us Millennials, may we humbly recommend brushing up your social media skills.

We leave you with this gem of a story from our colleague Dorey Scheimer in Cox’s D.C. bureau:

Congresswoman gets trolled on social media…by her daughter.

@carolinewalters Not very flattering TBH
rep_mimiwalters guess you won’t get your allowance

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Happy holidays, everyone. 


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