President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Rep. Tom Price (R., Ga.), an orthopedic surgeon who has been one of Capitol Hill's fiercest critics of President Obama's health-care law, to be secretary of health and human services, a person briefed on the decision confirmed Monday night.
The public announcement of Trump's selection of Price, a six-term congressman who chairs the House Budget Committee and is regarded as a policy wonk, is expected to be made as early as Tuesday.
As HHS secretary, Price would become the Trump administration's point person on dismantling and replacing the Affordable Care Act, one of Trump's major campaign promises.
Price, 62, who represents a suburban Atlanta district, has played a leading role in the Republican opposition to the law known as Obamacare and has helped draft several comprehensive bills to replace it.
During the campaign, Trump railed against the Affordable Care Act and vowed to repeal and replace it. But after meeting with Obama in the Oval Office shortly after the election, he was convinced to perhaps keep some of the more popular elements of the law intact and amend the law rather than repeal it.
Trump has said he would favor keeping the provision preventing insurers from refusing coverage for preexisting conditions as well as the one permitting children to stay on their parents' health plans until age 26.
In picking Price to fill a key cabinet position, Trump will add to his team a veteran lawmaker who is close to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.).
Price already is familiar with the budgetary process, the federal bureaucracy, and the costs and mechanics both of changing the Affordable Care Act as well as revamping the Medicare entitlement program.
On Monday, Trump met with retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, a possible alternative choice for secretary of state amid an escalating feud over the position between supporters of former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who will sit down with Trump on Tuesday.
As Trump's senior advisers battled over who should fill what is considered the most prestigious cabinet post, the president-elect will hold a second session with Romney along with another possible option, Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), aides said Monday. Corker, who was to visit Manhattan's Trump Tower on Tuesday, chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and had suggested publicly that he was unlikely to be chosen.
But Trump is reportedly considering alternatives for the State Department as an extraordinary feud has broken out between those supporting Romney, a former Massachusetts governor considered the quintessential establishment Republican, and Giuliani, a fierce Trump backer seen by some as deserving the secretary of state post out of sheer loyalty. Romney attacked Trump in unusually harsh and personal terms during the presidential campaign.
The fight hit a fevered pitch over Thanksgiving weekend as Kellyanne Conway, Trump's former campaign manager and now senior adviser to the transition team, took to the airwaves to attack Romney's credentials to be the nation's top diplomat. Conway is part of a cadre of Trump confidants who are waging an unusual public battle against Romney to influence the president-elect's decision.
Another Trump backer, Rep. Chris Collins (R., N.Y.) blasted Romney on CNN's New Day Monday as "a self-serving egomaniac who puts himself first, who has a chip on his shoulder, and thinks that he should be president of the United States." And Brent Bozell, an influential conservative activist, said in a statement that "the very idea of Mitt Romney as Secretary of State - or any other cabinet position in a Trump administration - is a slap to his supporters."
Others inside Trump's orbit, particularly Vice President-elect Mike Pence, are viewed as Romney supporters, believing that he has a steady hand that would benefit Trump in the turbulent world of diplomacy, according to people familiar with the dispute who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Trump was angered at Conway's remarks, according to a report Monday on MSNBC's Morning Joe. Trump aides declined to comment during a conference call with reporters, saying only that the president-elect is taking his time to choose the best possible candidate. Jason Miller, a senior Trump communications adviser, said Trump is meeting with Romney again because "the two, quite frankly, haven't spent much time together, so this gives them a little more time to do so."
The secretary of state search heated up as Trump resumed a busy schedule of transition meetings Monday at Manhattan's Trump Tower after spending Thanksgiving weekend at his Florida estate.