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Trump’s pick for the health and human secretary takes office

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s new health secretary took office Friday after becoming the latest Cabinet nominee to eke out a confirmation victory in the bitterly divided Senate.

Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office to Tom Price, of Georgia, at the White House hours after the Senate confirmed him 52-47 in a party-line vote. That roll call came in the dead of night, thanks to Democrats’ tactic of forcing prolonged debates to broadcast their opposition to Trump and his team.

Pence said Price, an orthopedic surgeon, is “uniquely qualified” for the job and playing a leading role in helping the Republican-controlled Congress achieve its top priority of repealing and replacing the Obama-era Affordable Care Act.

Pence called Price “the most principled expert on health care policy” in Congress. Price served seven terms in the House.

As head of the Health and Human Services Department, Price will take center stage as the administration and congressional Republicans try delivering on their pledge to scrap President Barack Obama’s health care law and substitute their own programs. After years of trying, they finally command both the White House and Congress but have so far struggled to craft a plan with enough votes to win approval.

Price is likely to play a lead role both in shaping health care legislation and issuing department regulations aimed at weakening Obama’s statute.

“Having Dr. Tom Price at the helm of HHS gives us a committed ally in our work to repeal and replace Obamacare,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Friday.

Democrats focused on the legislation Price once sponsored, including efforts to kill Obama’s law. He’s also sought to reshape Medicare’s guarantee of health coverage for seniors into a voucher-like program, cut Medicaid, which helps poor people afford care, and halt federal payments to Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions.

Sen Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., conceded that Price had experience but added, “It’s the kind of experience that should horrify you.”

That battle won, Republicans were preparing to next win Senate confirmation for financier Steven Mnuchin to be Treasury secretary. He was expected to get the chamber’s approval Monday, along with Trump’s choice to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, physician David Shulkin.

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