Washington DC - President Donald Trump’s pick for health secretary is a former pharmaceutical company executive who already has drawn heat from Democrats over his ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
But as Alex Azar faces his first nomination hearing, even some of those critics see signs he could shift the health care debate away from partisan confrontation.
“He’s certainly given me the assurances that that’s his intention,” said former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a Democrat who met with Azar recently and has known him for years.
“While there may be disagreements on policy, I do think he’s willing to hear people out.”
“He’s the best choice we have, given the current political situation,” said Kavita Patel, a health care expert with the Brookings Institution, who worked in President Barack Obama’s administration and, before that, for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.
All sides agree that Azar is headed for Senate confirmation, which would be his third after earlier appointments to senior positions at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Nevertheless, he faces some tough questioning at his hearing Wednesday, given the Senate’s hyperpartisan atmosphere, which has sunk or battered other nominees.
Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has tweeted her intent to ask Azar if he would be a toady for Trump’s “extreme, politically driven & harmful agenda.”