President-elect Donald Trump is set to announce on Tuesday that he has chosen Republican US Representative Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon and vociferous critic of the Affordable Care Act, as health and human services secretary, two sources told Reuters. If confirmed by the Senate, Georgia’s Price, 62, will play a major role in overhauling the health care insurance law better known as Obamacare, the signature domestic legislative achievement of President Barack Obama.
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Trump’s decision was confirmed by a transition team official and a Republican official on Monday. Price has long championed a plan of tax credits, expanded health savings accounts, and lawsuit reforms to replace Obamacare. Trump had pledged during his campaign for the White House to repeal the law and replace it with a plan to give states more control over the Medicaid health plan for the poor and allow insurers to sell plans nationally.
However, after meeting Obama following the Nov. 8 election, Trump said he would consider keeping provisions in the law that let parents keep adult children up to age 26 on insurance policies and bar insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
Price is one of about 70 people who Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence have met so far as they look to shape their White House and Cabinet team before taking office on Jan. 20. Pence told reporters there would be “a number of very important announcements” on Tuesday.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller declined to confirm the Price pick in a Fox News interview late on Monday but said he expected Trump would announce two Cabinet nominees and another top administration official on Tuesday.
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Miller said Trump was not expected to announce his decision for the coveted secretary of state job on Tuesday. Trump was slated to have dinner on Tuesday night with Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, who is a “top flight” candidate for the post, he said. Miller said Trump was also considering former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani – favored by Trump loyalists who worked on the election campaign – and discussed the position with retired general David Petraeus on Monday.
A Republican source close to the transition team said it had appeared late last week that Trump was leaning toward choosing Romney as his secretary of state but that the appearance of Petraeus at Trump Tower suggested the president-elect was still undecided and casting a wider net for the position. “Just met with General Petraeus–was very impressed!” Trump said on Twitter shortly after Petraeus left the hour-long meeting in Manhattan.
Petraeus, a former U.S. military commander who led international forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, was sentenced to two years’ probation and fined $100,000 last year for the unauthorized removal and retention of classified information. He admitted sharing classified information with his biographer, with whom he was having an affair. The scandal forced Petraeus to resign from the CIA in 2012.
Petraeus said after meeting Trump the New York businessman “basically walked us around the world” in their discussion. “He showed a great grasp of the variety of challenges that are out there and some of the opportunities as well,” Petraeus told reporters.
Petraeus’ past mishandling of classified documents is unlikely to be an obstacle to Trump offering him a top government post, even though Trump harshly criticized Democratic rival Hillary Clinton during the campaign for using a private email server while she was secretary of state. Trump often compared the prosecution of Petraeus with the lack of legal action against Clinton, who was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation but never charged with any offense.
“Just based on his public statements, I think (Trump) sees Petraeus as a good man who made a mistake, who did a fraction of what other people have done and received a lot more punishment,” said a source who has advised the transition team on national security. Among the Trump transition team, Petraeus and Romney are supported by Republicans looking for a candidate with gravitas who can unify the party, the source said.
But Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser who managed Trump’s campaign, has said Romney would cause a backlash among his supporters, who back Guiliani. Miller said Conway has Trump’s blessing to express her views about Romney. On Tuesday, Trump also plans to meet U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who is also said to be in the mix.
Ideological conservatives hope Trump picks John Bolton, the former ambassador to the United Nations, the source said. Corker is well regarded but some in the Trump camp do not want too many senators coming into the Cabinet, the source said.