WASHINGTON -- A trio of senior Senate Democrats called for an investigation into U.S. Rep. Tom Price's stock trades on Thursday, arguing that the chamber should not move forward on the Roswell Republican's Cabinet nomination until their questions are answered.
Chuck Schumer of New York, the new Senate Democratic leader, and the top Democrats on the two committees that will hold Price's confirmation hearings said Capitol Hill's independent ethics watchdog and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission should probe the possibility that Price participated in insider trading.
“Whether the law was actually broken, whether there was quid-pro-quos or inside information, we don’t know," Schumer told reporters during a Capitol Hill news conference, "but there’s enough evidence here that it should be investigated before Congressman Price comes up for a hearing.”
The good government group Public Citizen filed inquiries with the SEC and Office of Congressional Ethics on Thursday.
The effort comes in response to report published in The Wall Street Journal last month that Price, Donald Trump's pick for secretary of health and human services, traded more than $300,000 in shares of health-related stock while pushing legislation on Capitol Hill that could have impacted those businesses’ bottom lines.
Trump's transition team maintains that Price has fully complied with federal laws and ethics rules. A spokesman said Thursday that by calling out Price, Democrats were being hypocritical since several in their ranks have also traded pharmaceutical and health insurance-related stocks.
"The reality is that Dr. Price’s 20-year career as an orthopedic surgeon and a fiscal conservative make him uniquely qualified to lead HHS," spokesman Phil Blando said in a statement. "Today’s stunt is simply an effort to deflect attention away from ObamaCare’s dismal record, including reduced choices and $700 billion in Medicare cuts.”
Democrats have short-listed Price as one of eight Trump nominees against whom they plan to fight the hardest. They do not have enough votes on their own to stop any of those confirmations, but they can slow-walk the process, stretching it out for days for each Cabinet-level pick.
"I am in the process of negotiating with Sen. McConnell,” Schumer said Thursday. “We have certain areas of leverage. We hope we don’t have to use them.”
Senate Republicans have underscored their intent to blaze forward on confirming Price and other nominees. They've scheduled the first of Price's two confirmation hearings for Jan. 18.
They've also rolled out a new counter-attack. In the minutes before Schumer's news conference, the Senate GOP blasted out a press release selling Price as "a strong and credible advocate for American patients."
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