WASHINGTON -- President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday chose Rep. Tom Price of Georgia to oversee the nation's health care system, picking a fierce critic of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act who also has championed efforts to privatize Medicare.
President-elect Donald Trump (center) has dinner Tuesday evening at Jean-Georges restaurant in Manhattan with Reince Priebus (left), his chief of staff, and Mitt Romney, a candidate for secretary of state.
In this Jan. 5, 2016, file photo, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., chairman of the House Budget Committee appears before the Rules Committee, joined at right by Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., on Capitol Hill in Washington.
In this Nov. 21, 2016 photo, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao arrives at Trump Tower in New York, to meet with President-elect Donald Trump.
Trump selected another veteran Republican, Elaine Chao, to lead the Department of Transportation.
Both have long ties to Washington.
Price, picked to lead the Department of Health and Human Services after more than a decade in Congress, helped craft House Speaker Paul Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare -- a position Trump opposed in the campaign. Chao, who was the first Asian-American woman to serve in a president's Cabinet when she was secretary of labor under George W. Bush, is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Trump also is enlisting former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin as secretary of the Treasury Department, according to those familiar with the decision. The official announcement on Mnuchin was expected as early as today.
All Cabinet-level positions would require Senate confirmation.
Trump's team also announced that Seema Verma, a health care consultant who was the architect of Medicaid changes in Vice President-elect Mike Pence's home state of Indiana, has been chosen to be administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The selections came as Trump spent Tuesday with advisers in his Manhattan skyscraper, racing through meetings with prospective administration hires as high-profile vacancies loom -- none bigger than secretary of state. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, on the shortlist for the nation's chief diplomat, was to have a private dinner with Trump on Tuesday night.
Romney spoke briefly to reporters after the meal, saying he has "increasing hope" that Trump can lead the country to a "better future."
Trump also met with Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he met with former CIA Director David Petraeus the day before.
After his meeting, Corker told reporters, "The world needs to know that the secretary of state is someone who speaks fully for the president." Romney repeatedly opposed Trump's candidacy during the campaign.
Transition aides said Trump was likely at least a few days away from a decision on secretary of state.
Trump's team announced that he will take a break from transition planning to resume the occasionally raucous campaign-style rallies that marked his outsider bid for the White House. Trump and Pence have scheduled a rally in Cincinnati for Thursday night, part of what Trump aides are billing as a "thank you" tour. It is unclear where else the duo might hold similar events.
A transition official said the pair would then travel Thursday to Indiana for an event with Carrier, an air-conditioning company. During the campaign, Trump repeatedly used the news of Carrier's plans to move some business to Mexico as criticism of Democratic trade policies. Carrier tweeted, "We are pleased to have reached a deal with President-elect Trump & VP-elect Pence to keep close to 1,000 jobs in Indy."
Even as he weighed crucial Cabinet decisions, Trump kept up on Twitter, criticizing the act of burning of the American flag.
He wrote that "nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag." He warned that those who do should face "perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!"
Trump spokesman Jason Miller said on CNN shortly afterward that the president-elect believes that "flag burning should be illegal."
"The president-elect is a very strong supporter of the First Amendment. But I also think there's a big difference between that and burning the American flag, which has absolutely no place in our society," he said.
Neither Trump nor Miller explained what prompted the tweet, though U.S. flags reportedly have been burned in at least two anti-Trump protests in recent weeks.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the 1989 case Texas v. Johnson that burning a flag is a form of political expression protected under the First Amendment and cannot be made illegal.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Tuesday that he doesn't support Trump's approach.
"I support the First Amendment," he said.
Separately, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein delivered $3.5 million to the state of Wisconsin to guarantee a recount in one of the states that fueled Trump's victory. Stein, who is also pursuing recounts in Pennsylvania and Michigan, has raised concerns that the results may have been hacked.
Trump has assailed the Green Party effort as a scam and separately has made claims of voter fraud in other states.
Price and Medicare
In the news release about his selection, Price said he was "humbled by the incredible challenges that lay ahead," but he steered clear of mentioning any of his specific beliefs about how the health-care system should be changed, speaking in more generic terms.
"There is much work," he said, "to be done to ensure we have a healthcare system that works for patients, families, and doctors; that leads the world in the cure and prevention of illness; and that is based on sensible rules to protect the well-being of the country while embracing its innovative spirit."
Price led GOP efforts on Capitol Hill to transform Medicare into a voucherlike system, a change that, if enacted, would dramatically reduce government spending on the health care program that serves an estimated 57 million people.
Trump did not address Price's position on Medicare in a statement released by his transition team. The team did not respond to subsequent questions about it.
"Chairman Price, a renowned physician, has earned a reputation for being a tireless problem solver and the go-to expert on health care policy, making him the ideal choice to serve in this capacity," Trump said. "He is exceptionally qualified to shepherd our commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare and bring affordable and accessible health care to every American."
House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a tweet Tuesday morning that Price "has made health care his life's work. He is the absolute perfect choice for HHS Secretary."
Trump, in a 2015 interview promoted on his campaign website, pledged not to cut expensive entitlement programs that Republicans have fought for years to cut to help reduce the federal deficit.
"I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican. And I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid. Every other Republican's going to cut," Trump told news website Daily Signal.
He later changed his mind on Medicaid, embracing the GOP concept of turning the program over to the states with a fixed amount of federal "block grant" funding.
Price's selection drew an immediate rebuke from the Senate's incoming minority leader, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "Congressman Price has proven to be far out of the mainstream of what Americans want when it comes to Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, and Planned Parenthood," Schumer said in a statement. "Thanks to those three programs, millions of American seniors, families, people with disabilities and women have access to quality, affordable health care. Nominating Congressman Price to be the HHS secretary is akin to asking the fox to guard the hen house."
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., charged that Price "has a long history of wanting to do exactly the opposite of what Trump campaigned on."
"Rep. Price has a long history of wanting to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. What hypocrisy!" Sanders said in a statement.
Like Price, Chao is well-known in Washington. As secretary of labor, she was the only official in Bush's Cabinet to serve with him for all eight years. While enjoying the praise and admiration of her colleagues, she also invited scorn from organized labor, whose leaders accused her of being too cozy with business interests.
Since leaving the Bush administration, Chao has served as a fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a contributor to Fox News. She is also a former chief executive of the United Way of America, director of the Peace Corps and banker with Citicorp in New York.
The transportation post could become a vital one given Trump's desires to see $1 trillion spent on revitalizing the nation's roads, bridges, ports and other systems of public transit.
Trump has said infrastructure redevelopment is a priority.
Information for this article was contributed by Steve Peoples, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Catherine Lucey, Jonathan Lemire, Julie Pace, Joan Lowry and Erica Werner of The Associated Press; by Jeremy W. Peters and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times; by Jerry Markon, Philip Rucker, Amy Goldstein and Kelsey Snell of The Washington Post; and by Mike Dorning of Bloomberg News.
A Section on 11/30/2016
Print Headline: Trump taps Price to lead health agency