Democratic leaders demanded an investigation Thursday into President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head Health and Human Services, saying there are indications Rep. Tom Price may have engaged in insider trading based on secrets he knew as a member of Congress.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Mr. Price’s confirmation hearings should be put off until after an investigation is completed by the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent House watchdog — a process that could take months, and leave the nominee in limbo.
A Wall Street Journal review of Mr. Price’s stock trades found hundreds of thousands of dollars in transactions that involved health sector companies, and Mr. Schumer said Mr. Price could have had insider knowledge about the health market based on his job as chairman of the Budget Committee, and his service on the Ways and Means Committee.
“This is serious stuff,” Mr. Schumer said — though he said he doesn’t have any evidence of wrongdoing at this point.
Mr. Price is the latest of Mr. Trump’s nominees to face challenges from Democrats, who are looking to derail the GOP’s push to confirm a number of the picks the same day Mr. Trump takes the oath of office.
Mr. Schumer said most of Mr. Trump’s nominees haven’t provided all of the information that’s traditionally submitted before hearings, and he said that should force a slower approach.
In a preemptive strike, Senate Republicans issued a memo quoting glowing praise for Mr. Price, including from the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association.
And the Trump transition team said what the congressman has done is no different than other lawmakers.
“The same questions being raised today by Senator Schumer about Dr. Price should be directed to Senators Carper, Warner, and Whitehouse, who own and have traded hundreds of thousands of dollars in pharmaceutical and health insurance company stocks,” said Phil Blando, a transition spokesman. “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.”
But Mr. Schumer and the top Democrats on the two committees that will review Mr. Price’s nomination said the insider-trading questions can’t be brushed aside.
Sen. Patty Murray, chairwoman of the Senate Health Committee, said Congress needs to know who Mr. Price was talking to at the time he made the stock trades, and what non-public information he has. Ms. Murray met with Mr. Price on Wednesday, but declined to reveal what they talked about or whether she asked about the incendiary charges.
The Office of Congressional Ethics, which the Democrats want to investigate Mr. Price, was the subject of controversy earlier this week. House Republicans tried to curtail the office’s purview in a rules change on the opening day of Congress. The GOP backed off after a spanking from Mr. Trump, who in a Twitter post told them they had better things to do.