After facing an epic grilling on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Rep. Tom Price – Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services – is now coming under intense scrutiny from Democrats and health care advocates who say a criminal investigation needs to be opened.
The reason? Well, for one, Price introduced a bill in Congress that would’ve benefitted medical device manufacturer Zimmer Biomet just days after buying stock in the company.
Conflicts like this are raising questions about whether Price will continue to push for public policy that benefits his own stock portfolio instead of the people he is supposed to serve. Democrats and health care advocates are now calling for a thorough investigation into the matter before his nomination can move forward.
Social Security advocacy group Social Security Works issued this statement on Wednesday, calling for a criminal investigation and urging President-elect Trump to withdraw Price’s nomination:
The hearing revealed that Price purchased stock, at a preferred price, based on what appears to be insider information. That raises serious legal questions. If Price has broken the law, he should be expelled from Congress. To determine whether he has, the matter should be immediately referred to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice for a thorough investigation and appropriate legal action.
Earlier in the day, Price faced intense scrutiny from Senate Democrats. Here’s Sen. Elizabeth Warren grilling him on the issue:
Fire from Sen. Warren as she hammers HHS nom. Tom Price on stock purchases, tries to get more time to ask more Qs: https://t.co/6An8k8rmpV
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 18, 2017
“Did you buy the stock and then did you introduce a bill that would be helpful to the companies you just bought stock in?” Warren pushed.
“The stock was bought by a broker who was making those decisions,” Price claimed. “I wasn’t making those decisions.”
“Wink wink, nod nod, and we’re all just supposed to believe that?” Warren shot back.
Even if we concede that Price knew nothing about the stock buy – which is still a huge question – the fact remains that even after finding out about the purchase, he added 23 co-sponsors to the same piece of legislation and continued to advocate for it.
All of this goes without even mentioning that Price has sought to destroy Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security throughout his career. In today’s hearing, he wouldn’t say whether he would preserve the benefits that these important programs provide for millions of Americans.
Price has also voted against funding for Planned Parenthood and promises to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, putting millions of Americans at risk of losing their health insurance.
Overall, it’s been a disastrous few days for Trump’s political appointments, as one by one, they crumble before each committee that questions them – whether it’s education nominee Betsy DeVos saying we need guns in schools because of grizzly bears or EPA pick Scott Pruitt claiming his opinion on climate change is irrelevant.
The brewing storm around Price is only to make these troubles even worse for Trump.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.