Senate approves Alex Azar as HHS secretary

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Alex Azar as secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, entrusting a former pharmaceutical executive to tamp down drug prices and steer President Trump’s attempts to reshape Obamacare. A handful of Democrats joined all but one Republican in approving the nominee, 55-43, brushing aside liberal voices who said Mr. Azar’s track record of raising prices at drugmaker Eli Lilly made him the wrong man for the job. Republicans said Mr. Azar’s resume was an asset, not a liability. A sharp lawyer who served in the Bush administration, Mr. Azar is said to have an encyclopedic knowledge of how HHS works and a firm grasp on how perverse market incentives are driving drug prices upward. “His distinguished record – including prior HHS service as deputy secretary and private-sector work – shows he is the right man for the job,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnnell said. “It is vital that this department be headed by a leader with Mr. Azar’s extensive qualifications and excellent reputation.” Mr. Azar will fill a secretary chair that’s been occupied by acting boss Eric D. Hargan for several months. President Trump’s first pick for the job — former congressman Tom Price — resigned amid revelations he used expensive charter planes for business travel. Once installed, Mr. Azar will oversee a sprawling, $1-trillion agency that regulates and approves drugs, combats disease and runs public health programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.

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