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HHS Nominee Vote Outs Senate Swingers

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Members of the Senate voted 55-43 to confirm Alex Azar II as President Donald Trump’s new secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The vote count might hint at which senators are most likely to work to come up with bipartisan health finance legislation over the past months.

The previous confirmed HHS secretary, Tom Price, a former Republican representative, resigned after efforts to change the Affordablle Care Act system faltered, and after Price faced criticism about his travel expenses.

(Related: HHS Nominee Backs Interstate Health Coverage Sales)

The Senate confirmed Price Feb. 10, 2017, by a 52-47 vote. Every Republican who participated voted for Price. Every Democrat, and every independent who normally votes with the Democrats, voted against price.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., changed course for the Azar nomination and voted against confirming Azar.

Five Democrats, and one independent who normally votes with the Democrats, crossed party lines to vote for Azar.

Sen. Angus King of Maine is the independent who voted for Azar.

The list of five Democrats who voted for Azar includes three Democrats often seen as likely swing voters: Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Azar also received support from both of the Democratic senators from Delaware: Tom Carper and Chris Coons.

Coons put out a statement noting that he has known Azar for several decades and met with him personally to discuss the nomination and asked him about the Affordable Care Act.

“There is plenty that we disagree on, but I was encouraged by his answers during our conversation,” Coons said. “I disagree with most of the Trump administration’s health policies, but HHS needs a competent leader. Mr. Azar is prepared to be that.”

—Read Senators Explore Bipartisan `Plan B’ to Troubled GOP Health Bill on ThinkAdvisor.

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