01.24.18

Sen. Murray Opposes Alex Azar’s Nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services; Urges Colleagues to Join

Sen. Murray criticizes Azar’s views on women’s health as outdated and out of the mainstream

  

Azar’s background raising drug prices as pharmaceutical executive one of many concerns

 

Sen. Murray highlights Azar’s support for President Trump’s ideology-driven agenda and health care sabotage

Sen. Murray alarmed by Azar’s statement that a woman’s employer should be able to decide whether to cover her birth control

 

President Trump nominated Azar to replace former Secretary Price after he resigned in scandal and disgrace

 

Sen. Murray: “We need a voice to reject such damaging ideological decisions and to champion evidence, science, and sound policymaking. I do not believe Mr. Azar is that champion.”

 

***WATCH SEN. MURRAY’S SPEECH HERE***

 

(Washington, D.C.) Today, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, voiced her strong opposition to President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar. 

 

In her remarks on the Senate floor, Sen. Murray reminded her colleagues about the ethics issues of former Secretary Price, who resigned amid scandal, and stressed the importance of putting patients and families first as Secretary of Health. Sen. Murray went on to outline a series of concerns about how Azar fails to meet this standard, including his outdated views on women’s health, his past endorsement of health care sabotage, and his record raising drug prices as a pharmaceutical executive at Eli Lilly. 

 

Key Excerpts of Sen. Patty Murray’s speech:

 

“Today, Secretary Price is infamous for two signature achievements: undermining health care access for millions of people, and resigning in scandal and disgrace. In the wake of Secretary Price’s resignation, President Trump had another opportunity to get this right. I believe families in Washington state deserve a health Secretary who will finally put patients ahead of politics. Unfortunately, after meeting with Alex Azar, hearing his testimony, and carefully reviewing his record and qualifications, I do not believe Mr. Azar is an acceptable choice to lead the Department, and I will be voting against his confirmation.”

 

“From President Trump’s first day in office, he has been focused on undermining health coverage by putting up barriers to obtaining care, shortening open enrollment periods, expanding loopholes for corporations, and making every effort to throw the entire system into chaos. After a year of President Trump’s health care sabotage, there were over 3 million more uninsured people in our country. So we need a voice to stand up and defend the health care our families rely on. I am alarmed by Mr. Azar’s statements cheerleading health care repeal efforts, predicting the Affordable Care Act was “circling the drain” even though enrollment stayed strong across the country this year, and detailing specific steps to, as he said, hasten the demise of patients’ and families’ health care.”

 

“We need a voice to reject such damaging ideological decisions and to champion evidence, science, and sound policymaking. I do not believe Mr. Azar is that champion—quite the opposite in fact. I’m alarmed that Mr. Azar believes a woman’s employer should be able to decide, based on ideology, whether or not her birth control should be covered. I’m alarmed by his extreme and out of touch views on Roe v. Wade, as shown by his support for legislation and political candidates who would undermine the Constitutional rights enshrined in this important decision, and his use of ideological rhetoric in discussing the rights guaranteed to women by this landmark case. Unfortunately, Mr. Azar is latest in a string of ideologically-driven health care appointees from President Trump. We cannot tolerate one more nominee overseeing women’s health programs who is more focused on undermining them than on advancing them.”

 

“As a nominee Mr. Azar may try to assure us that he will fight for patients and protect the health of our communities, but after looking at his record, after reading his past statements, after discussing these issues with him, I am alarmed that he might not stand up for women and families. I am alarmed that he might not stand up to the pharmaceutical industry. And I am alarmed that he might not stand up to President Trump’s agenda driven by sabotage and ideology.”

 

Video of Sen. Murray’s speech available HERE.

 

Full text below of Sen. Murray’s speech:

 

“M. President, almost a year ago, as Republicans were jamming through the confirmation of Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services, I rose to object to his nomination.

 

“I voiced my deep concerns about whether Secretary Price would be committed to protecting health care for our families, committed to putting evidence and sound policy over partisanship and ideology, and whether he would be committed to addressing the many ethical questions about his investments Republicans allowed to go unanswered.

 

“He was not.

 

“Today, Secretary Price is infamous for two signature achievements: undermining health care access for millions of people, and resigning in scandal and disgrace.

 

“In the wake of Secretary Price’s resignation, President Trump had another opportunity to get this right. I believe families in Washington state deserve a health Secretary who will finally put patients ahead of politics.

 

“Unfortunately, after meeting with Alex Azar, hearing his testimony, and carefully reviewing his record and qualifications, I do not believe Mr. Azar is an acceptable choice to lead the Department, and I will be voting against his confirmation.

 

“From President Trump’s first day in office, he has been focused on undermining health coverage by putting up barriers to obtaining care, shortening open enrollment periods, expanding loopholes for corporations, and making every effort to throw the entire system into chaos. After a year of President Trump’s health care sabotage, there were over 3 million more uninsured people in our country. So we need a voice to stand up and defend the health care our families rely on.

 

“I am alarmed by Mr. Azar’s statements cheerleading health care repeal efforts, predicting the Affordable Care Act was “circling the drain” even though enrollment stayed strong across the country this year, and detailing specific steps to, as he said, hasten the demise of patients’ and families’ health care.

 

“While President Trump continues to call the opioid crisis a public health emergency, he has yet to treat it like one. So far his Administration has proposed cutting the budget for the Office of National Drug Control Policy by 95 percent, focused on gutting Medicaid which provides critically needed substance use disorder treatment, and failed to provide any new funding or resources to support communities fighting this crisis.  Local leaders in Washington state and across the country need a voice at the Department of Health and Human Services committed to bringing more resources, not fewer, to address the opioid epidemic.

 

“So I am alarmed by Mr. Azar’s refusal to support more funding for communities hard-hit by the opioid epidemic.

 

“President Trump’s Department has also shown a concerning pattern of undermining evidence-based policies in favor of ideology.

 

“When it comes to undermining evidence, political appointees at Health and Human Services have asked career staff not to use the terms “evidence-based” and “science-based” because they view them as “essentially meaningless.” And when it comes to favoring ideology, not only has the Department taken steps to restrict access to care for women and transgender patients, leaders have also sought to effectively ban words like “transgender,” “diversity,” and “vulnerable” among Department employees.

 

“And they have not just cut important words, they have gutted valuable, evidenced-based programs, like the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. This program has provided useful insight on what works to address high teen pregnancy rates. It has been recognized by the bipartisan Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking for its rigorous approach to evaluation. And yet, President Trump’s Administration chose to unilaterally shorten this program’s grants.

 

“We need a voice to reject such damaging ideological decisions and to champion evidence, science, and sound policymaking.

 

“I do not believe Mr. Azar is that champion—quite the opposite in fact.

 

“I’m alarmed that Mr. Azar believes a woman’s employer should be able to decide, based on ideology, whether or not her birth control should be covered. I’m alarmed by his extreme and out of touch views on Roe v. Wade, as shown by his support for legislation and political candidates who would undermine the Constitutional rights enshrined in this important decision, and his use of ideological rhetoric in discussing the rights guaranteed to women by this landmark case.

 

“Unfortunately, Mr. Azar is latest in a string of ideologically-driven health care appointees from President Trump. We cannot tolerate one more nominee overseeing women’s health programs who is more focused on undermining them than on advancing them.

 

“Finally, I’m alarmed by his track record at the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. As a nominee, Mr. Azar has said we need to fight to lower drug prices. But during his time as President of Lilly, the company tripled the price of insulin. And Mr. Azar personally approved significant price increases for dozens of the company’s drugs.

 

“As a nominee Mr. Azar may try to assure us that he will fight for patients and protect the health of our communities, but after looking at his record, after reading his past statements, after discussing these issues with him, I am alarmed that he might not stand up for women and families. I am alarmed that he might not stand up to the pharmaceutical industry. And I am alarmed that he might not stand up to President Trump’s agenda driven by sabotage and ideology. 

 

“After months of Republicans putting politics ahead of funding health care for children—and as Republicans continue to put politics ahead of funding for community health centers, like those in rural Washington state, and those across the country helping underserved communities, as they continue to ignore other primary care programs that bring medical professionals to populations in need like teaching health centers in Spokane—we need strong leadership at the Department of Health and Human Services that will demand we put public health first, not partisanship.

 

“And so I urge my colleagues to stand with me in voting against his confirmation.

 

“Thank you.”

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