In the wake of Tom Price’s resignation as HHS secretary, Eric Hargan has been sworn in as HHS deputy secretary. The Senate had approved his nomination in a 57-38 vote on Wednesday.
Hargan’s elevation to the second-highest position at HHS likely precedes a confirmation fight over Price’s ultimate replacement, according to a report from The Hill. Hargan, who served in the Bush administration and assisted on President Trump’s HHS transition team, received confirmation with the support of seven Democrats and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), along with Senate Republicans.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) spoke out against Hargan’s confirmation on the floor, tying him to what some Democrats have described as ongoing attacks on the Affordable Care Act. “I have no reason to believe Mr. Hargan will deviate from Tom Price’s ideological agenda that includes constant sabotage of the Affordable Care Act,” said Wyden, The Hill reported.
While Hargan refused to discuss his support for keeping parts of the ACA during his confirmation hearing, he did express enthusiasm for the position. “The challenges are so great, whether in public health, in healthcare finance, in facilitating innovation in healthcare and in the administration of human services, that I cannot imagine not wanting to participate,” he said in a statement (PDF) before the Senate Finance Committee.
Don J. Wright, who formally announced Hargan’s appointment, was named acting secretary of HHS by President Trump last week after Price resigned following his controversial use of private planes for government travel, which spawned a pair of government investigations.
Speculation about who Trump might nominate as a permanent replacement for Price has centered on current CMS Administrator Seema Verma, given that she already passed Senate confirmation for her current role and has received mostly positive industry response to her actions since then. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is reportedly also in the running.