Ahead of the President’s Day congressional recess, the Senate worked overtime to confirm key nominees to join President Trump’s cabinet. Most notably, former Georgia Congressman Tom Price was confirmed as the new Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) during an early morning, party-line vote. In addition to serving in Congress, Secretary Price is a former orthopedic surgeon and a vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act
(ACA) also known as “Obamacare.” There is an expectation that Secretary Price will leverage his new leadership position to roll back and undermine the ACA despite the current lack of consensus in Congress and the administration regarding an overall “repeal and replace” strategy. While many ACA programs are mandated by law, they are also implemented and administered through regulations, rulemaking, and oversight by HHS.
Following the confirmation of Secretary Price, the Senate is moving on to consider the administration’s nominee for Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Seema Verma. Her confirmation proceedings are expected to be less contentious than the HHS Secretary’s. Once confirmed, she is expected to work on policy issues related to Medicare and Medicaid reform, and healthcare delivery during the ACA overhaul.
Also awaiting confirmation is South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney as the next Director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. Congressman Mulvaney is an outspoken member of the Tea Party movement who has called for extensive federal budget cuts and questioned whether medical research should be privatized. He will be the chief architect of the administration’s FY 2018 budget request to Congress, which is expected to be released by the end of May. It is unclear how his ideas on federal spending will mesh with the perspective of President Trump, who has called for increased spending on defense and infrastructure projects. Most crucially within the administration’s upcoming budget request will be the recommended allocations for medical research at the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, and other areas of the federal government that support academic medical researchers across the country on an annual basis.