Democrats spent little time on Wednesday gloating about Republicans’ recent Obamacare repeal failure and instead blasted the Trump administration for planned cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services.
One Democratic legislator after another teed off on Department Secretary Tom Price, in an appropriations subcommittee hearing. They accused him of planning to wreck Obamacare through executive inaction and austerity measures.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said Price was carrying out a strategy articulated by Steve Bannon, the ex-Breitbart editor and White House aide.
“I see what Steve Bannon meant when he talked about ‘deconstructing the administrative state’,” Lee said. Bannon had made the remarks in February, at the annual Conservative Political Action Committee conference.
The Trump administration has proposed cutting the Health and Human Services budget next year by $15.1 billion — roughly 18 percent of the department’s 2017 inlays. After his resounding legislative defeat last week, Trump said: “the best thing we can do, politically speaking, is let Obamacare explode.”
Price denied that he was seeking to “deconstruct” the agency and said that he was committed to upholding “the law of the land.”
But he refused repeatedly to commit to Obamacare mandates for insurance companies, answering numerous questions about specific coverage requirements by insisting only that the administration believes in choice.
As Price noted in a tweet sent on May 17, his office is tasked with enforcing a wide range of rules, under the Affordable Care Act.
“You don’t believe in insurance covering maternity care, pregnancy, newborn care, mental health services, and substance abuse treatment — all of which come out of your department,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) told Price.
“I think you’re at the top of doing what Ms. Lee has talked about: deconstructing an agency and dismantling healthcare in this country,” she added.
One of the many “yes or no” questions from Democrats that Price actually did answer was a query by Rep. DeLauro on his ethics agreement. During his confirmation hearing, the ex-Congressman was accused of trading stocks based on his insider knowledge of legislation.
“Have you divested yourself of all healthcare-related investments, yes or no?” DeLauro asked.
“The answer is yes,” Price eventually said.