On Friday evening September 29, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price stepped down unexpectedly during the controversy over his private chartered flights. The resignation marks the first cabinet secretary to leave the Trump Administration less than eight months after he was confirmed by the Senate.

Deputy Assistant Health Secretary Don Wright was appointed to serve as Acting Secretary.  HHS oversees an annual budget of $1.15 trillion and includes the Medicare and Medicaid programs, as well as the FDA, NIH, CDC and all child welfare and most children’s programs.

The resignation and the vacancy now opens a potential political battle in the months ahead to fill the cabinet spot. Congressman Price was approved on a party line vote of 52 to 47 in February.  He had been criticized by some groups and Senate Democrats for some stock profits he earned that appeared to benefit from some of his past legislation he had sponsored.  In addition, Democrats were concerned about how he would oversee the implementation of the ACA.

Democrats are certain to make an issue of the next nominee and their willingness to support the Affordable Care Act. The position of HHS Secretary provides a great deal of influence and power over how successful the ACA can be and it will be the flashpoint of debate.  Various rumors are starting to float around Washington for the next Secretary.  Possible nominees include current HHS agency heads as well as names such as senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) who headed up the last effort to repeal the ACA.

No indication yet as to how soon that replacement will be announced.