President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be the nation’s top health official is facing calls for investigation of whether his stock picks were guided by insider knowledge gleaned as a senior member of Congress.
Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., was chosen by Trump in part because of his plan to repeal “Obamacare,” and his confirmation hearings are expected to be a spirited debate about the future of federal health insurance programs. Financial issues could take the hearings in a different direction, however, to determine whether there were any potential violations of federal law.
The Trump transition team says Price, chairman of the House Budget Committee, has complied fully with all applicable laws and ethics rules. “Congressional Democrats are playing petty politics with these delay tactics and attempting to thwart President-elect Trump’s mandate for reform,” spokesman Phillip Blando said in a statement. “These charges are laughable.”
Price would lead Health and Human Services, a $1 trillion department that oversees major insurance programs, drug safety and approval, medical research and disease prevention.
“There’s enough here that, if you’re serious about oversight, you can’t simply say it’s a coincidence and move on,” said Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, which plans hearings on Price’s nomination.
A former White House ethics lawyer also said he thinks senators should examine Price’s stock trades.
“I do have to say that it shows an extraordinary lack of judgment for a member of Congress to be buying and selling health care stock,” said University of Minnesota law professor Richard Painter, who served as ethics counsel for President George W. Bush. “That is just asking for trouble.”
“I’d want to know why did he make these trades,” said Painter, who also serves as vice chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan watchdog group.