The bespectacled doctor from Georgia, Tom Price, could be your brother, father, grandfather, maybe even a forefather. His gaze is clear, his priorities well-reasoned, and his qualifications to be the next Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) painfully obvious. So why the visceral Democratic opposition? The answer is plain as day, and should make him a quick yes – for all Senators who respect the US Constitution, prescribed roles for Senate and Executive, and this remarkable man’s unswerving advocacy of common sense.
I am reminded of former Senate Majority Leader Reid’s statement on the first day of President Obama’s first term – January 20, 2009 – wherein he said: “It is up to us, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, to confirm these worthy nominees quickly so that they, along with our new President, can hit the ground running.” The commitment of these words of the former Majority Leader should still ring true today.
Tom Price is a rare specimen in modern America – he is a former practicing doctor, who “made his bones” as an orthopedic surgeon, and then entered public life to help straighten things out. He pulls no punches, when it comes to defending fiscal responsibility at the federal level, individual liberty, and fee for service medicine.
Price knew the President’s socialized medicine gambit – an “Unaffordable Care Act” – was a travesty in the making well before others. With calm, logic and unremitting facts, he has made good on his promise to oppose what takes more rights away than it has ever given, trying repeatedly to get it replaced by a return to what America wanted – not what one man and one party, with pen and intransigence forced on average Americans. He has long been a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, which has since 1943 opposed “the socialized medicine and … government takeover of medicine.”
But there is much more to commend Price, and to make him an “easy in.” Forget the fact that the Constitution – and 200 years of precedent – give a President room to make his own choices, and expect the Senate only to advise and consent in regular order. Price is a stand-out.
His elections have been lopsided wins, one and all, because he is warmly and widely viewed as the epitome of sensible policy making. He has served on a broad swath of committees, each of which requires study and acumen, from appropriations to Health and Human Services. He has written and spoken widely on the issues over which he will soon have purview.
More, he is viewed as an expert in the field of medicine, and also budget balancing. No surprise that he – like most of America – opposes the runaway imbalances, inequities and unfairness of the Obamacare fiasco. Or that he was chosen to fleet up and become Chairman of the House Budget Committee. His record is one of sagacity and caring – for average Americans, especially those who are “on in years” and need a person of his depth, strength of character and earnest disposition to defend their equities in the crazy spend-thrift days world of modern Washington. He is a believer in reason, voice in the wilderness, and an island of dry wit and fidelity in the swamp.
So, why not the simple nod and onward? Because those of principle are being hurled at by partisans, which is the height of unfairness – when the American people have spoken, asking a Republican President to offer high quality Republican cabinet secretaries, and quick confirmation by a Republican Congress. Price draws fire, ironically, for his integrity. He is not in favor of liberal-leaning, Federally-funded radio, and so sought to curtail the endless taxpayer funding of National Public Radio. This earned him the media’s ire.
He sought to rationally and sensibly reduce the endless non-discretionary spending spike that liberals in Washington now treat at normal, and led the charge to have the President identify a year – any year – in which the Federal Budget would be balanced. Can you imagine?
No, this is not a controversial candidate. This is a leader. Leaders are rare enough, but those who prevail, reason well, come with the pedigree of a medical doctor and thoughtful advocate for the average American – and especially older Americans – should not just be confirmed. They should be swiftly and unanimously confirmed. Let us, on this topic, say no more. Tom Price is a man we need, and the US Senate should quickly get him into office.
Similar advocacy should attend the nomination of many other Trump/Pence Team appointees, including Seema Verma. Verma should be an easy “yes” vote, and will soon lead the HHS component entitled Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Not only is she a longtime medical policy expert, and one on whom governors lean for depth, architecture and policy implementation, but she is focused on older and less fortunate Americans – and always has been.
Her pedigree includes a Johns Hopkins Masters in Public Health, earned some 20 years ago. And her breadth, depth and fluency in health care policy is nothing short of exemplary for that post. She is destined to easily outshine many of politically-oriented and less qualified predecessors. That said, she too is about integrity and stands out on her own, even among peers. From wise Medicaid-related counsel guiding Washington, Ohio, Kentucky, Iowa and Michigan to her assistance in crafting Indiana’s health care approach, she is widely viewed as a leader. Her private sector experience, far from a liability, also equips her to corral contractors and keep costs in check for all Americans. In sum, two great choices. They should both be easy “yes” votes, and America will be better – and markedly healthier – for these appointees.
Dan Weber is President of AMAC, a 1.2 million member national organization which defends equities of older Americans, fiscal responsibility, constitutional norms, solvent health care and social security systems, and sound national defense.