On Friday Congressman Tom Price (R-GA) was approved by the Senate for the Department of Health and Human Services. The vote was 52 to 47, he was quickly sworn in and his two biggest priorities are likely to be a strategy to repeal the ACA and putting together an HHS budget.
Congressmen Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) is the other key partner on these two issues. The nominee to head up the Office of Management and Budget will likely not get a Senate vote this week and so his swearing in will not take place until the last few days of February after the Presidents Day break.
Last week was filled with contentious debates but no surprises as Betsy DeVos became the first cabinet appointee to get confirmed by having the Vice President cast the 51st vote (51 to 50). That was followed by a controversial debate over Senator Jeff Sessions as the new Attorney General. His approval will now start to set in motion future decisions about criminal justice reforms as well as the fate of the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).
For Price, there are two budgets that must be dealt with, the current year funding expires at the end of April and the new Administration’s budget for FY 2018 (October 1 2017-September 30, 2018). Both men but especially Secretary Price will be key to how and when the Congress acts on a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Price is a physician and a long-time opponent of the ACA. He may get some eventual help. Next week the Senate Finance Committee will hold confirmation hearings on Seema Verma for the Centers on Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Verma helped craft some of the Medicaid waivers including Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana plan and those of Michigan and Iowa. She is a consultant based in Indiana.