WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate voted 52-47 to approve Republican Representative Tom Price as the new chief of the massive Health and Human Services Department.
The vote came early Friday morning at the end of a session that ran well past midnight.
Price, a veteran House member from the state of Georgia and an orthopedic surgeon, is an opponent of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said Price “knows more about health care policy than just about anyone.” McConnell said Price would help “bring stability to health care markets that Obamacare has harmed.”
As the new HHS chief, Price, 62, will lead the campaign to dismantle the health care law that allowed 20 million Americans to gain access to health insurance.
Republicans say they want to replace Obamacare, but have not agreed on a replacement.
“The American people deserve a secretary of Health and Human Services who will help more Americans receive quality, affordable health insurance coverage, not one who supports stripping it away by repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, said.
Price, the latest nominee by President Donald Trump to be confirmed to his Cabinet, faced some tough questions about whether as head of the House Budget Committee, he used his position to benefit his stock trades. Some observers said, however, overwhelming evidence exonerated Price of unethical behavior.
In addition to Price, the Senate has confirmed six others: Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, Jim Mattis as defense secretary, Jeff Sessions as attorney general, John Kelly as homeland security secretary, Elaine Chao as transportation secretary; and Betsy DeVos as education secretary.
That leaves eight other nominees yet to be confirmed. The next vote will be on Steven Mnuchin, who has been nominated to become treasury secretary.
The other executive positions yet to be filled are the secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor and Veterans Affairs.