Georgia Rep. Tom Price, nominated to be Health and Human Services secretary, responds to questioning during Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearings, on Capitol Hill, on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. Democrats questioned Price's investments in healthcare-related companies, which which could conflict with HHS. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Georgia Rep. Tom Price, Donald Trump's pick to serve as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, on Tuesday rejected conflict of interest and abuse of power accusations related to stock investments.
Price has been criticized for actively trading in stocks for Australian pharmaceutical company Innate Immunotherapeutics during the time that he was promoting legislation that could affect the company. The congressman said he did not trade these stocks directly, but instead through a broker.
After Price's nominee questionnaire was reviewed by staff members of the bi-partisan Senate Finance Committee, the six-term Republican congressman was criticized for understating the value of his shares in Innate Immunotherapeutics by up to $200,000.
Price took improper deductions on his 2016 tax returns over land depreciation in condominiums he owns, the committee's staff said in a memo to lawmakers. He and his wife also both claimed in 2013, 2014 and 2016 nearly $20,000 in deductions for which there was no proper documentation to support.
So far, Price's tax returns will be amended to remove the nearly $20,000 in deductions and he readjusted the value of his shares following the discovery. Democrats also accuse Price of purchasing the Innate Immunotherapeutics stocks after receiving a stock tip from a Republican Rep. Chris Collins, who denied the insider trading allegations.
Price was pressed by Democrats over the revelations during his second confirmation hearing.
"It's hard to see how this can be anything but a conflict of interest and an abuse of his position," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Tuesday during Price's second confirmation hearing.
"The reality is that everything that I did was ethical, above board, legal and transparent," Price told the Senate Finance Committee, mirroring the same message he told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday.
Should he be confirmed, Price would be responsible for Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, the Food and Drug Administration and various federal medical research agencies.
During his earlier hearing, Price said the Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, will not take insurance coverage away from Americans.
"Nobody's interested in pulling the rug out from anybody," Price said. "I think there's been a lot of talk about individuals losing health coverage. That is not our goal or our desire, nor is it our plan."
Price is a former orthopedic surgeon who has been one of the fiercest critics of President Barack Obama's effort to reform health insurance.