WASHINGTON — Georgia U.S. Rep. Tom Price was sworn in for his seventh term in the House of Representatives yesterday, but soon his gaze will shift to the other end of the Capitol. Within the month the Roswell Republican will take the hot seat as senators mull his nomination for health and human services secretary.
As we’ve previously reported, Democrats are not happy with President-elect Donald Trump’s selection of Price. They’ve zeroed in on Price’s past proposals to replace Obamacare and overhaul popular entitlement programs such as Medicaid, as well as a report that he traded health-related stocks as a member of Congress. They’ve indicated they aren’t afraid to ask tough questions and perhaps slow-walk his nomination if a list of demands isn’t met.
Across the aisle, Price has been showered with praise.
Here’s what to expect in the weeks ahead:
Two confirmation hearings. The Senate Finance Committee and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee have joint jurisdiction over Price and both will hold their own confirmation hearings. Senate Finance will take the lead in vetting Price, and we’re told he’s already submitted three years worth of tax returns and answers to a committee questionnaire that includes info about his employment history and financial disclosures. The committee will also receive information from the Office of Government Ethics regarding steps to avoid any conflicts of interest.
Senate HELP announced its confirmation hearing will be held on Jan. 18. Finance has yet to disclose its schedule. Expect both hearings to be live-streamed on the committees’ websites.
In the meantime, senators have already begun meeting with Price one-on-one. Only a handful of Democrats have announced firm plans to oppose him at the moment, but we’ll be watching several members of Senate HELP for particularly sharp questions. Liberal stalwarts Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders sit on the committee, as does Connecticut’s Chris Murphy, who has vowed to oppose Price. Washington’s Patty Murray, the panel’s top Democrat, is also one to watch since she’s a member of the Democratic leadership. We’re expecting Republican senators to be warm towards Price, since many have worked with him over the years.
One committee-level confirmation vote. Only the Finance Committee will cast a vote on whether to advance Price’s nomination to the full Senate floor. Price will need to win the support of a majority of the panel’s 26 members to do so. (Fourteen are Republicans.) Georgia U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson sits on the committee (he’s also a member of Senate HELP) and has vowed to look out for Price, his longtime colleague. Chuck Schumer of New York, the incoming Democratic leader, is also a member of the panel. He’s sent signals that Democrats plan to put up a fight when it comes to Price but has been thin on specifics. Ultimately, their game plan appears to be to use the Senate confirmation hearings to frame Price as too extreme, with the goal of whipping up public furor against him.
Senate floor consideration and final vote. If all 52 Republicans stick together on Price, Democrats do not have the votes to sink his nomination thanks to a rules change they made when they were in power in 2013. But there are some parliamentary delay tactics they can use against the Roswell Republican that could stretch debate for a few days.
Overall, barring any bombshell developments we’re expecting Price to be confirmed in the weeks ahead.
Only after Price is given the greenlight by the Senate would he resign his 6th District congressional seat. At that point, state law requires Gov. Nathan Deal to call for a special election at least 30 days after the vacancy opens. If nobody wins a majority of that vote — which is nearly a certainty in a crowded race — then a runoff would be held between the top two finishers.
Read more Tom Price coverage: