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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

HHS Nominee Appears Before Senate Finance Committee

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The Senate Finance Committee held a confirmation hearing on Monday on the nomination of Alex Azar as Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). This is the second hearing on his nomination Mr. Azar has participated in. In late 2017, he appeared before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The Finance Committee will vote on his nomination in the coming weeks.

During the hours-long hearing, Mr. Azar shared his vision for HHS with lawmakers, outlining the top priorities he would undertake as Secretary. Azar reiterated the areas he believes needed critical attention, including lowering drug prices, increasing access and affordability of health care, reforming Medicaid and tackling the nation’s opioid epidemic. As happened during the Senate HELP hearing, lawmakers were mostly split among party lines.

“Mr. Azar will be the administration’s primary policy driver,” Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said during the hearing. “I believe his record shows that he is more than capable of leading HHS through these next few consequential years.”

“The common thread to all the Republican talk is this: deep, draconian cuts to programs like Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, anti-hunger programs, support for struggling families,” Committee Ranking Member Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) said.

With the confirmation likely coming down to a party-line vote, it was notable that this week Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) announced their plans to vote for Mr. Azar when his nomination comes to the floor later this month. They are the first two Democrats to do so at this time.