Policy

HHS nominee Price clears Senate committee with no Democrats present (updated)

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) suspended rules requiring a quorum for a vote, allowing Price to advance to the full Senate.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 18: U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Nominee Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) testifies during his confirmation hearing January 17, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Price, a leading critic of the Affordable Care Act, is expected to face questions about his healthcare stock purchases before introducing legislation that would benefit the companies. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Nominee Rep. Tom Price (R-Georgia) testifies during his confirmation hearing Jan. 17, 2017 on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Tom Price (R-Georgia), President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has cleared the Senate Finance Committee, following some procedural maneuvering.

Democrats on the committee walked out of hearings Tuesday night after more questions arose over Price’s business dealings. But Wednesday morning, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) suspended rules requiring a quorum for a vote, allowing Price to advance to the full Senate.

According to U.S. News and World Report, the committee normally requires at least one member of each party to be present before taking such votes. Price advanced with a 14-0 vote, even though there has been vocal opposition to him from Democrats and questions from a handful of Senate Republicans.

The same procedural move also advanced the nomination of Treasury Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin. Mnuchin, a former hedge fund manager, bank CEO and Goldman Sachs executive, was implicated in the housing foreclosure crisis, though he denied any wrongdoing.

In a statement released after the vote, Hatch gave effusive praise to both Price and Mnuchin

“As Congress navigates the minefields of tax reform, health care reform and other vitally important matters, we need willing and competent partners to lead these crucial executive branch departments,” he said. “I believe these two nominees can and will provide the necessary leadership that will allow us to be successful in these many endeavors, and I look forward to their nominations being considered by the full Senate.”

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Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) also put out a statement that took shots at his political opponents.

“I know that Rep. Tom Price is well prepared to lead this important agency at this critical time for our nation’s healthcare system,” Burr said. “Senate Democrats should stop running side shows and honor the results of the 2016 election so that the president can move forward with putting his leadership in place at these federal agencies.”

Price still faces stiff opposition before he can be confirmed by the full Senate. He has spoken in favor of privatizing Medicare, turning Medicaid into a block-grant program for states and against the Medicare shift toward value-based payment.

In a tweet, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) expressed the feelings of many a Democrat.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images