Rep. Tom Price took pointed questions on his personal investments during his Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday to be the country’s next Health and Human Services Secretary, including on his investments in six pharmaceutical companies reported by TIME.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee questioned the Georgia congressman and Trump’s nominee for the country’s next health care for more than three hours on his views on Medicare, the country’s healthcare system, as well as his stock investments.
TIME first reported on Tuesday that Price invested as much as $90,000 in six pharmaceutical companies that later benefitted from positions he took in Congress. The Georgia congressmen’s investments have raised questions from ethics watchdogs about whether he used his authority as a member of Congress to benefit his stock portfolio.
Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut questioned Price on his investments. “Two weeks after you invested as much as $90,000 in six pharmaceutical companies,” said Sen. Murphy, “you became the leader in the United States Congress in opposition to this [Medicare] demonstration project” that would have hurt the companies. “That’s a damning timeline, Representative,” Murphy said.
Price said that he himself did not make the trades, but that they were made by a broker on his behalf.
“The fact of the matter is that I didn’t know any of those trades were being made,” Price responded to Murphy. “The reason you know about them is I appropriately reported them in an above-board and ethical manner as required by the House of Representatives.”
Price led an effort in April 2016 to squash a regulatory action that would have reduced incentives for doctors to prescribe expensive drugs to Medicare patients; the six companies in which he made investments also opposed the regulatory action. He proposed legislation to block the rule and led a public relations effort.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren questioned Price on his investments in a biomedical company, Zimmer Biomet, and legislation he introduced that would have benefited the company, first reported by CNN. “The stock was bought by a broker,” said Price. “I wasn’t making the decision.”
Price, 62, has called for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, reforming Medicare and in the past has opposed rules that would allow Medicare to bargain with pharmaceutical companies on drug prices. He is known as a social conservative and a budget hawk, admired by conservatives as a stalwart and a wonk but viewed by Democrats as an ideologue.
Price would run the $1 trillion, 80,000-employee Department of Health and Human Services, which runs major health insurance programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.
Democrats led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have called for an ethics investigation into Price’s finances. “This isn’t a witch hunt. These are serious and disquieting allegations,” Schumer said Tuesday.
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