WASHINGTON — Pardon us for experiencing a little déjà vu this morning.
The Senate Finance Committee’s confirmation hearing for U.S. Rep. Tom Price, President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the department of health and human services, currently in progress, is hitting many of the same themes from the Roswell Republican’s four-hour grilling last week.
Just as their colleagues on the Senate health committee did last week, Democrats today haven’t hesitated to hit the Roswell Republican on his stock trades and views on health policy.
“It’s hard to see how this can be anything but a conflict of interest and an abuse of his position,” said Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the committee, of Price’s holdings in the Australian biomedical firm Innate Immunotherapeutics.
And Price and his allies haven’t missed a beat defending his views and financial dealings.
“I feel like I’ve been asked to be a character witness in the sentencing of a felony trial,” said U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who introduced Price at the top of the hearing.
What’s different is the mood in the room. It feels a little more testy.
Price appeared a little more curt from the get-go while defending his financial dealings after being criticized by Wyden. And Democrats seemed a little more dogged and a little less patient in their questioning.
Yes, it’s because many of these same questions were asked last week when Price appeared before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The stakes today are also much higher. That’s because the 26 members of the Finance panel will ultimately decide on whether Price’s nomination should be advanced to the Senate floor in the days and weeks ahead.
There are other conflicts at play here. Members of the panel have been sniping at each other regarding the consideration process for Trump’s Cabinet nominees.
Chairman Orrin Hatch slammed Democrats for pushing to stretch out the timeframe for Price and other nominees.
“The time between the completion of Dr. Price’s file and his hearing has been more than that of the last two (health and human services) secretaries combined,” said Hatch, R-Utah.
“By any reasonable standard, that is sufficient time for a full and fair examination of the nominee’s record and disclosures,” he said.
Democrats shot back, arguing they were adhering to the same process of the last 20 years.
Price’s second turn before the Senate came as a liberal North Fulton group planned to protest his nomination at his Roswell office. The group Needles in a Haystack said several dozen activists were planning to participate in the demonstration later this afternoon.
You can stream the confirmation hearing here. Follow along on the Political Insider blog for updates and analysis.