Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawless (202)224-4515
Hatch Calls on Colleagues to Confirm Price to Head HHS
Utah Senator Says, “Dr. Price is an exceptional nominee, with the right experience and credentials to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this critical juncture. I believe he is more than up to the challenge.”
WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) praised Rep. Tom Price’s (R-Ga.) exceptional experience and leadership and urged colleagues to support his nomination to be the Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Senate is expected to vote to confirm Rep. Price this week.
“Dr. Price has extensive insight into our nation’s healthcare system, having practiced medicine for two decades in a variety of settings,” Hatch said. “At a time when our healthcare system is in distress, I believe that Dr. Price will put his vast experience to good use and be decisive in not only finding solutions, but implementing them as well.”
Hatch went on to note the negative tone surrounding confirmation votes in the Senate and urged colleagues to set aside partisan posturing.
“My colleagues’ specious arguments and their desperate attempts to block Dr. Price’s confirmation would all seem far more sincere if he was the one nominee that they deemed unfit to serve,” Hatch said. The confirmation of any of President Trump’s cabinet nominees, it seems, will bring about untold destruction, the likes of which America has never seen. My colleagues appear to be more than willing to cast aside the traditions, respect, and assumptions of good faith that has long been the hallmark of the Senate confirmation process and of the Senate itself.”
The complete speech as prepared for delivery is below:
Mr. President, I would like to turn to the business currently before the Senate and express my support for the nomination of Representative Tom Price to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
I believe that Dr. Price is an exceptional nominee, with the right experience and credentials to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this critical juncture.
HHS encompasses an extremely large and diverse set of agencies, including: the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration just to name a few. All told, its annual budget, is more than $1 trillion – that’s TRILLION with T. The various programs and agencies that fall under HHS’s purview have an enormous impact on our nation’s fiscal and economic outlook. I’m not exaggerating when I say that HHS affects the daily lives of more American taxpayers than any other part of the federal government.
Management of all these agencies is not for the faint of heart. Once confirmed, Dr. Price will have his work cut out for him, but I believe he is more than up to the challenge.
Dr. Price has extensive insight into our nation’s healthcare system, having practiced medicine for two decades in a variety of settings. That experience has informed his years of service in the House of Representatives, which included a tenure as Chairman of the House Budget Committee and in the leadership of the Ways and Means Committee.
While many who come to Washington are content to sit back and talk about our nation’s problems, Dr. Price has always sought to find solutions. And, at a time when our healthcare system is in distress, I believe that Dr. Price will put his vast experience to good use and be decisive in not only in working with Congress to find solutions, but implementing them as well.
My view on his qualifications is shared by a great number of people, including many who see the problems in our healthcare system up close.
For example, former HHS Secretaries Mike Leavitt and Tommie Thompson enthusiastically support his nomination.
Major stakeholder organizations – including the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, most surgical specialty groups, and others – also support him.
In their letter of support, the Healthcare Leadership Council, which represents a wide range of healthcare providers, said that “it is difficult to imagine anyone more capable of serving his nation as the Secretary of HHS than Congressman Tom Price.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Of course, none of this seems to matter to my colleagues on the other side.
They aren’t coming to the floor to criticize Dr. Price’s abilities or qualifications. Instead, most of what we’ve heard – for weeks now – has focused on a vague patchwork of allegations of ethical impropriety on the part of the nominee.
Now, Mr. President, I’ve participated in quite a few confirmation debates during my time in the Senate. One thing I’ve learned is that, if the opponents of a particular nomination keep moving their focus from one set of allegations to another, more often than not, they don’t have a leg to stand on.
That is very much the case with regard to the attacks that have been hurled at Dr. Price.
First, we heard about supposed conflicts of interest in his finances, until it was pretty clear that Dr. Price had followed all the required ethical guidelines and disclosure requirements.
After that, he was accused of lying to the Senate Finance Committee during our vetting process because he had to file an amended disclosure to include some mistaken omissions. Of course, this is not an altogether uncommon occurrence, particularly given the fact that the Finance Committee’s vetting process is uniquely exhaustive. Furthermore, he was asked about this during his confirmation hearing and his answers were reasonable, and I haven’t heard anyone credibly argue that he was intentionally trying to mislead the committee.
I’ll set aside the fact that the particulars of Dr. Price’s disclosures to the Finance Committee – information which is typically kept private among members and staff – were apparently managed and embellished in order to create and reinforce a partisan narrative with the media. Instead, I’ll simply say that the Finance Committee’s bipartisan vetting process for nominees has historically operated on an assumption of good faith, both on the part of the nominee and the members of the committee. The fact that my colleagues on the committee, in many respects, have decided to cast all that aside in recent weeks is not evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Dr. Price.
When the overblown claims about his disclosures failed to gain traction, my colleagues on the other side turned their focus to a particular investment in an Australian bio-med company in 2015.
Their claim: Dr. Price received a “sweetheart deal” from the company which allowed him to purchase stock at a discounted price. They also argue that he lied during his confirmation hearing when he said he paid the same price for the stock as everyone else at that time.
Now, Mr. President, my colleagues would have everyone believe that private placement investment arrangements are inherently shady and nefarious.
Let’s just get that out of the way right now: Private placements are a commonplace and appropriate means for companies to raise additional capital from a small number of investors.
The facts in this matter are relatively simple: The Australian company – Innate Immunotherapeutics – had a relatively small number of U.S. investors at the time. It is my understanding that all of the investors who had participated in a previous share offering were offered an opportunity to purchase additional stock as part of a private placement arrangement. Dr. Price purchased additional stock at the price that was offered to all of the investors in that group.
Once again, private placements are commonplace investments, not nefarious conspiracies as some of my colleagues would have us believe. And, according to all available details, this particular investment was in compliance with all of the laws and regulations that govern those types of deals. In fact, as private placement investments go, this one appears to be fairly unremarkable, unless, of course, you just assume, without evidence, that there simply HAD to be something fishy going on.
Put simply, this investment arrangement was a perfectly normal, commonplace affair. There’s certainly no evidence to suggest there was any insider trading, as some of my colleagues have alleged.
On top of that, Dr. Price’s statements before the Finance Committee, despite many claims to the contrary, appear to be truthful, unless you simply want to assume, without evidence, that he HAS to be lying.
By all accounts, Dr. Price purchased the Innate stock at the same price offered to all other participants in the private placement, which, by the way, also included a few thousand investors from Australia and New Zealand.
That is what he told the committee, and that, by all appearances, is the truth.
We certainly haven’t seen any evidence to the contrary.
Sure, my colleagues on the other side have thrown a lot of dots on the wall, apparently hoping that they can create a cloudy impression that something nefarious just HAD to be going on with this investment, even though they haven’t come close to connecting any of the dots.
They’ve parsed words.
They’ve divined alternative meanings behind the nominee’s statements.
But, let me be clear: No one has produced any credible evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of Dr. Price. That being the case, it is utterly shameful that my colleagues would go to such elaborate lengths in order to malign, not only a nominee for a cabinet position, but a sitting member of the United States Congress.
Of course, we went through a fairly ugly episode the other night about the same issue, though that one hit a little closer to home as the nominee under attack was a fellow Senator. I don’t want to rehash that argument here today.
Instead, I’ll say this: I know that some people like to fight around here. For some, it seems that the fighting is half the reason they’re here to begin with. And, neither party is blameless in that regard.
And, you know what, Mr. President? If my colleagues want to have a fierce and lively debate about this nominee’s qualifications or his views on policy, I welcome that particular debate.
If they want to fairly debate his record as a legislator and public servant, I am game.
But, to throw accusations and allegations at a congressional colleague – and to even go so far as to accuse him, without evidence, of criminal wrongdoing – is, in my view, beneath the dignity of the Senate. And, that is precisely what has happened to Dr. Price.
And, ultimately, Mr. President, my colleagues’ specious arguments and their desperate attempts to block Dr. Price’s confirmation would all seem far more sincere if he was the ONE nominee – or even one in a small handful of nominees – that they deemed unfit to serve.
But, that’s not what’s happening.
My colleagues on the other side have appeared to be apoplectic about almost every single nominee we’ve had before us. The confirmation of ANY of President Trump’s cabinet nominees, it seems, will bring about untold destruction, the likes of which America has never seen.
With so many of these nominations, the entire process has been wrought with fever-pitched arguments, accusations, and apocalyptic visions of a future world gone mad.
We hear it in committee.
We’re hearing it on the floor.
Then the Senate votes, the nominees are confirmed, and my colleagues immediately switch gears to do the very same thing with the next nomination.
One can only wonder how so many Senators can keep their outrage settings turned to eleven without getting completely exhausted. I suspect they’re able to do so because their outrage is more for show than anything else. Indeed, I suspect that the outrage that’s been on display has less to do with the particular nominees and more to do with a longer-term political agenda.
And, in service of that partisan agenda, my colleagues appear to be more than willing to cast aside the traditions, respect, and assumptions of good faith that has long been the hallmark of the Senate confirmation process and of the Senate itself.
We’ve seen that in committee.
We’re seeing it on the floor.
And, in my view, it is a tragic shame.
The bottom line is this:
Dr. Price is, by any reasonable and objective standard, qualified to serve as HHS Secretary.
There is nothing in his past record or statements that disqualify him to serve in that capacity.
In a better world, he’d be confirmed already. And, I suspect he will be confirmed in short order.
Once again, I urge my colleagues to vote with me to confirm Representative Price.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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