Republican senators who lead key committees said Monday they are ready to quickly confirm Alex Azar, President Trump's nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, praised Azar and said he expected the nominee to tackle Obamacare and ensure long-term sustainability for Medicare and Medicaid.
"Mr. Azar has the experience, knowledge and fortitude to take on these daunting challenges ... I hope my colleagues on the Finance Committee will work with me in the advancement of a fair and transparent vetting process for this nominee," he said.
As part of his confirmation process, Azar will need to answer questions from senators in hearings held by the Senate Finance Committee as well as from the Senate Health, Labor, Education and Pensions Committee. He will be provided some questions ahead of time and will be required to submit his tax returns to the Senate Finance Committee, which will review them and then schedule a hearing.
“As a former Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services and private sector executive, Alex Azar has the qualifications and experience to get results," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the HELP Committee, in a statement. "The Senate health committee will promptly schedule a hearing on his nomination.”
Because of a change to Senate rules imposes by Democrats in 2013, Republicans can confirm Azar and anyone else they want without help from Democrats, as long as nearly all Republicans agree. Still, Democrats were indicating Monday they were not inclined to support Azar.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top-ranking Democrat on the HELP committee, did not criticize Azar personally but blasted the Trump administration for its policies. Sen. Ron Wyden, R-Ore., top-ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, echoed similar sentiments.
“The Trump administration has so far run the Department of Health and Human Services with one goal: imposing its harmful ideology on patients, women, and families," Murray said in a statement, adding that she would seek during his confirmation hearings whether he would be willing to stand up to Trump, including on policies involving contraception.
Murray also signaled that she would be asking questions to assess Azar's ethics. The former health secretary, Dr. Tom Price, resigned after it was discovered the federal government paid $1 million for his travel on chartered jets.