Senate confirms Tom Price as President Trump's HHS secretary

WASHINGTON, Feb 10 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate voted on Friday to confirm Representative Tom Price as the top U.S. healthcare official, putting a determined opponent of Obamacare in position to help President Donald Trump dismantle the healthcare law.

The Senate voted 52-47 to approve the conservative Georgia Republican and orthopedic surgeon as the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a massive department with an annual budget of more than $1 trillion.

In his new job, Price will have authority to rewrite rules implementing the 2010 Affordable Care Act, as Obamacare is officially called. Price could move quickly to rework Obamacare regulations while waiting for Republicans in Congress to keep their pledge to scrap the law entirely.

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Republicans, who have the majority in Congress, are trying to craft a replacement for Obamacare but have not agreed on one. Twenty million Americans gained health insurance under the law.

Price's nomination was dogged by questions about his trading in hundreds of thousands of dollars in health company stocks while working on healthcare legislation. Democrats boycotted the committee vote on his nomination, saying he had made misleading statements about shares he bought. Price says his actions were legal and ethical.

A member of the House of Representatives since 2005 and currently chairman of the budget committee, Price is the author of legislation to repeal Obamacare and replace it with age-adjusted tax credits for the purchase of health insurance.

RELATED: Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price

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Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tom Price (L) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney (r) speak to reporters after the Congressional Budget Office released its score on proposed Republican health care legislation at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price addresses the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price (C) and Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini (R) listen to U.S. President Donald Trump speak during a meeting with health insurance company CEOs at the White House in Washington, U.S. February 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) testifies before a Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tom Price (C) meet with representatives of conservative political groups, including American Conservative Union Chairman Matthew Schlapp (R), to discuss their plans for repealing and replacing ObamaCare in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 10, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Rep. Tom Price gets into an elevator at Trump Tower, November 16, 2016 in New York City. President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet positions for the new administration.

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (C) and Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tom Price (R) attend a cabinet meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) hands the pen to Representative Tom Price (R-GA) after signing a bill repealing Obamacare at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 7, 2016. The U.S. Congress on Wednesday approved legislation dismantling President Barack Obama's signature health care plan, putting on his desk an election-year measure that faces a certain veto.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Chairman of the House Budget Committee Tom Price (R-GA) announces the House Budget during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 17, 2015.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price (L) takes to the podium to address the daily press briefing as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (R) steps aside at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Rep. Tom Price arrives at Trump Tower, November 16, 2016 in New York City. President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet positions for the new administration.

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) (L) is welcomed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) prior to testifying before a confirmation hearing on his nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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Democrats criticized Price for his stock trading as well as his opposition to Obamacare, his ideas about restructuring the Medicare program for the elderly, and his support for cutting federal funds to Planned Parenthood, a women's healthcare organization that provides abortions.

The Department of Health and Human Services oversees Medicare and Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor. It also encompasses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

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