Democrats demand probe of Trump health
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[January 06, 2017]
By Susan Cornwell and Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Democrats on
Thursday demanded an ethics probe into Tom Price, President-elect Donald
Trump's pick for U.S. health secretary, following a report that the
fierce Obamacare critic traded in healthcare company stocks while
pushing legislation in Congress that could affect those shares.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and others made their comments as
congressional Republicans moved ahead with their long-desired effort to
dismantle President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, and signaled the
vehemence with which Democrats will fight to protect the 2010 law.
Price is an orthopedic surgeon and a Republican congressman from Georgia
who, if confirmed by the Senate as Department of Health and Human
Services (HHS) secretary, would be given the task of carrying out
Trump's promise to gut the law that has enabled up to 20 million
previously uninsured Americans to obtain medical coverage.
The Democrats called on the independent Office of Congressional Ethics
(OCE), which examines misconduct allegations involving House of
Representatives members, to investigate Price's stock trades.
The Wall Street Journal last month reported that Price bought and sold
more than $300,000 in stock in about 40 healthcare, pharmaceutical and
biomedical companies over the past four years while sponsoring and
advocating legislation that could influence those companies' shares.
"Every American should be shocked by this," Schumer told a news
"We don't know if he broke the law," Schumer said of Price. "But there
are certainly enough serious questions to warrant a serious
investigation before any hearing is held on Congressman Price to become
secretary of HHS."
Democratic Senator Patty Murray said lawmakers want to know what
nonpublic information Price may have had when the transactions at issue
Phil Blando, a Trump transition spokesman, called Schumer's demands a
"stunt" to deflect attention from Obamacare's "dismal record."
Price, asked by Reuters in a Capitol hallway for a reaction to Schumer's
comments, replied, "We're looking forward to a positive and productive
A 2012 law prohibits members and employees of Congress from using "any
nonpublic information" stemming from the person's position or gained
while performing their job for personal benefit.
PUBLIC CITIZEN ALSO URGES PROBE
The nonpartisan watchdog group Public Citizen also asked the ethics
office, as well as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, to
investigate Price and another Republican congressman, Chris Collins of
New York, for possible violations of insider trading and
conflict-of-interest laws and rules.
Public Citizen said that, while serving in the House, Collins also sat
on the board of directors of Australian biotech company Innate
Immunotherapeutics Ltd <IIL.AX> and was its largest shareholder, with a
17 percent stake. It said Price also bought shares in the company.
Collins serves as the Trump transition team's congressional liaison.
Collins spokesman Michael McAdams said in a statement the congressman
"has followed all ethical guidelines related to his personal finances
during his time in the House and will continue to do so."
[to top of second column]
President-elect Donald Trump delivered brief remarks to reporters at
the Mar-a-lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. December 28, 2016.
House Republicans had moved on Monday to weaken the ethics office but
backtracked a day later after criticism from Democrats and Trump.
Trump transition spokesman Blando said the ethics questions Schumer
raised about Price should be directed to three sitting Democratic
senators, Delaware's Tom Carper, Virginia's Mark Warner and Rhode
Island's Sheldon Whitehouse, "who own and have traded hundreds of
thousands of dollars in pharmaceutical and health insurance company
"Hypocrisy is apparently alive and well this morning in Washington,"
A Warner spokeswoman said his investments were managed by an
independent trustee. A Whitehouse spokesman said the senator does
not direct his trading. A Carper spokeswoman said he has submitted
thorough financial disclosures and "always complied with every
requirement and regulation."
Republicans will control the White House and Congress once Trump
takes office on Jan. 20.
In a series of Twitter posts on Thursday, Trump blasted the
Democrats over Obamacare, taunting Schumer as "head clown."
"It is time for Republicans & Democrats to get together and come up
with a healthcare plan that really works - much less expensive & FAR
BETTER!" Trump wrote.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said he expects the legislative
work on repealing and replacing Obamacare to be completed this year.
"What date all of this gets phased in on is something we do not now
know," Ryan added.
Ryan indicated that a Republican proposal to strip women's
healthcare organization Planned Parenthood of federal funding will
be included in the Obamacare repeal legislation. Planned Parenthood
draws the ire of many Republicans because it provides abortions, as
well as cancer screenings and other services.
Republicans criticize Obamacare, one of Obama's signature
accomplishments in his eight years in office, as an excessive
government intrusion into the healthcare market and contend it is
harming job growth by burdening businesses. Democrats said Obamacare
has extended insurance to millions of Americans and curbed abuses by
private insurers such as refusing to provide policies to people with
pre-existing medical conditions.
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and David Alexander; Writing
by Will Dunham; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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