October 04, 2017
Tom Price may have cleared out his office at the Department of Health and Human Services – but what he left behind says volumes. After the liberals’ “gotcha” moment (a series of charter plane trips that were reportedly cleared by agency lawyers), Price resigned, walking away from one of the most influential jobs in Washington. For conservatives, it was a frustrating moment. Losing one of the most pro-family members of Trump’s cabinet was a huge blow to the movement, which was looking forward to rolling back eight years of anti-life, anti-freedom, health “care.”
The New York Times had warned that liberals were on the move, determined to drive out Price however they could. No one dreamed that his trips to official events would be how they succeeded. But while Tom may be gone, his stamp on the agency is not. This week, HHS released the former secretary’s five-year strategic plan for the agency, a vision of health care that Americans would have been proud of. Politico dug into the document, revealing that Price’s goals for the $1.1 trillion agency were strongly pro-life, hardly a surprise to anyone who followed his positive career in the House.
In multiple places, he talked about the importance of protecting people from “conception to natural death.” But reporters seemed especially interested in the more than 40 references to “faith” or “faith-based organizations” -- a dramatic shift from the last administration’s three. Obviously, the secretary was trying to heed the president’s executive order on religious liberty, which asked all agencies “to the greatest extent practicable and to the extent permitted by law, respect and protect the freedom of persons and organizations to engage in religious and political speech.”
Also, noteworthy, Price made no mention of carrying out Obamacare, probably hoping – like most voters – that the law wouldn’t be alive to carry out. Gone was the pandering to LGBT and abortion groups like Planned Parenthood, who raked in the dollars through the sexual liberalism Obama was funding.
In his brief stint as chief, the draft may be Price’s most important work. Not only is it a great roadmap for the agency, but for Tom’s replacement. Without Price, President Trump will have his hands full finding another conservative as qualified to advance his agenda. Fortunately, there are some solid candidates, like former House Rep. John Fleming, who would fill the pro-life void. Like Dr. Price, Dr. Fleming has a heart for the unborn and cares intently about making health care more affordable and patient-driven. He’s also familiar with the agency, having spent the last several months as HHS’s deputy assistant secretary for health technology reform.
As we’ve seen, liberals will fight anyone with a backbone to push Trump’s agenda. The director of the AIDS Institute couldn’t hide his disdain for the agency’s goals for the next five years. “It’s not that we’re against faith-based groups,” he insisted. “We just want to make sure that these groups will not withhold condoms, withhold messages that are important to prevent HIV, particularly among gay men, among transgender people.” But the irony of that statement is that conservatives are the ones who have -- not just the best messages -- but the solution for the spread of disease: abstain! The CDC just announced one of the greatest spikes in STDs in history, and we’re not going to stop STDs using the same failed approach -- throwing money at the problem, and never addressing its source! It’s time for an honest conversation about American health care. Tom Price started one. Let’s hope Donald Trump picks a conservative bold enough to continue it.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.