01.30.17

Senate Democrats Urge Republican Leadership to Postpone Committee Vote on Tom Price, Allow Outstanding Ethical Questions to be Fully Answered

In new letter, Senate Dems call on Leader McConnell and Chairman Hatch to postpone tomorrow’s vote to advance the nomination of Tom Price for HHS Secretary until he answers “significant questions about his qualifications and ethical conduct”

 

In contrast to previous HHS nominees of both parties, Price has failed to respond to the HELP Committee’s questions for the record; new information about his stock trades continues to emerge and raise questions--LINK

 

Senators say moving forward with vote would be “contrary to both the regular practice and the responsibility of the Senate”

 

Congressional Democrats and public advocacy groups have repeatedly called on the Office of Congressional Ethics and the SEC to investigate Price’s financial investments—LINK

 

Senate Democrats: “It would be a disservice to the American people to put Rep. Price in such a position if these outstanding questions are not answered.”

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Senate Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee have scheduled a vote for tomorrow on the nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) for Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), rushing to advance his nomination despite outstanding and significant questions about his qualifications and ethical conduct. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Senators Al Franken (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) today sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Chairman Orrin Hatch urging them to postpone the vote until Rep. Price responds to the HELP Committee’s questions and has “provided documents sought in connection with his inappropriate and potentially illegal investment activities.”

 

The Senate has a responsibility to thoroughly vet and evaluate each nominee, rather than acting as a rubber stamp for the new Administration. Unfortunately, a vote has been scheduled to advance Rep. Price’s nomination even though he has not responded to questions submitted by members of the HELP Committee following his January 18 testimony, and in spite of  serious concerns regarding Rep. Price’s financial investments,” wrote the Senators. “Until Rep. Price responds to the HELP Committee’s questions and has provided documents sought in connection with his inappropriate and potentially illegal investment activities, his nomination should not move forward.

 

HELP Committee members submitted questions for the record to Rep. Price on January 20, two days after his nomination hearing before the Committee, but have yet to receive any responses. Rep. Price has also failed to respond to several requests by Senators for copies of his brokerage despite having provided those statements to the press and the press reporting they contradict testimony he provided during the HELP hearing. Specifically, Senators continue to be unsatisfied with his explanation of his stock purchases in Australian biomedical company Innate Immunotherapeutics. Among several concerns, Rep. Price’s conflicting reports regarding these purchases, his purchase of this stock at a discounted price, and the intersection of these purchases with significant votes on 21st Century Cures – legislation that could impact Innate Immunotherapeutics – raise the appearance of serious conflicts of interest.

 

The Senators further point out that prior nominees for HHS Secretary have routinely and repeatedly supplied thorough answers on a bipartisan basis to members of the HELP Committee during both the Obama and Bush Administrations.

 

The Senators concluded in the letter that a: Senate Finance Committee vote on Rep. Price’s nomination – currently scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, January 31 – prior to concerns regarding his actions being fully investigated and addressed is contrary to both the regular practice and the responsibility of the Senate. If confirmed, Rep. Price would have substantial authority over the future of this country’s health care system.  It would be a disservice to the American people to put Rep. Price in such a position if these outstanding questions are not answered.”

 

The full text of the letter is below and HERE:

 

 

Januaray 30, 2017

 

Senator Mitch McConnell

Capitol Building, S-221

Washington, DC 20510

 

Senator Orrin Hatch

104 Hart Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Senators McConnell and Hatch:

 

We write with serious concern about Senate Republicans’ rush to confirm Rep. Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services, despite outstanding and significant questions about his qualifications and ethical conduct.

 

The Senate has a responsibility to thoroughly vet and evaluate each nominee, rather than acting as a rubber stamp for the new Administration. Unfortunately, a vote has been scheduled to advance Rep. Price’s nomination even though he has not responded to questions submitted by members of the HELP Committee following his January 18 testimony, and in spite of  serious concerns regarding Rep. Price’s financial investments.  Until Rep. Price responds to the HELP Committee’s questions and has provided documents sought in connection with his inappropriate and potentially illegal investment activities, his nomination should not move forward.

 

The HELP Committee members submitted questions to Rep. Price on January 20, two days after his nomination hearing before the Committee.  We have not yet received any responses to our questions.  Prior nominees for HHS Secretary have routinely and repeatedly supplied thoughtful and thorough answers on a bipartisan basis to members of the HELP Committee during both the Obama and Bush Administrations. 

 

Rep. Price has also failed to respond to my request, with Senator Wyden, for copies of Rep. Price’s brokerage statements in order to determine how much control he actually exercised over his investments in the health care sector.  We continue to be unsatisfied with his explanation of his stock purchases in Australian biomedical company Innate Immunotherapeutics, which sit in a separate brokerage account from his other investments.  Among other concerns, Rep. Price’s conversations with Rep. Collins about the company, Rep. Price’s purchase of the stock at a discounted price, and the intersection of these purchases with significant votes on 21st Century Cures – legislation that could benefit Innate Immunotherapeutics – raise the appearance of conflicts of interest.[1]  In addition, Rep. Price’s stock purchases in other pharmaceutical and medical device companies raise suspicion, given his introduction of legislation and outreach to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on issues that would directly affect the companies in which he invested.[2] 

 

Congressional Democrats and public advocacy groups have called on the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate Rep. Price’s financial investments.  A Senate Finance Committee vote on Rep. Price’s nomination – currently scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, January 31 – prior to concerns regarding his actions being fully investigated and addressed is contrary to both the regular practice and the responsibility of the Senate. If confirmed, Rep. Price would have substantial authority over the future of this country’s health care system.  It would be a disservice to the American people to put Rep. Price in such a position if these outstanding questions are not answered. 

 

We urge you to postpone the Finance committee’s vote on Rep. Price.

 

Sincerely,

 

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[1] https://www.help.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/012317%20SEC%20Price%20letter.pdf

[2] http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/16/politics/tom-price-bill-aiding-company/; http://time.com/4636351/tom-price-drug-companies-investments/