Johnny Isakson steps in as Tom Price’s top Senate champion

Credit: Tamar Hallerman

Credit: Tamar Hallerman

WASHINGTON – As Georgia U.S. Rep. Tom Price prepares to take the hot seat in the Senate tomorrow, his Republican colleague Johnny Isakson is also taking up arms.

The three-term senator plans to be the Roswell Republican's chief defender as his health and human services nomination winds through the Senate in the weeks ahead. When it comes to ensuring Price gets confirmed, it's personal, Isakson said in a recent interview.

“I’m going to be sitting through both (confirmation) hearings,” he said. Democrats who speak ill of Price are “going to have to look me in the eye when they do it.”

Isakson has called around to many of his Democratic colleagues over the last week, taking advantage of the relationships he’s built over the years to make personal appeals for Price, who took over Isakson's 6th District congressional seat when he moved to the Senate in 2004.

“I’m hoping I did some good to give folks an open mind or two,” he said.

Isakson has focused his pitch on Price’s qualifications as a physician and legislator. He’s also reminded Democrats of his vote in support of Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the current health secretary who was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2014.

It's unclear how many minds he's been able to change. Several Democrats have already announced plans to oppose Price due to his past proposals to replace Obamacare and overhaul entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Party leaders have also seized on a series of media reports delving into Price's stock trades and raised questions about conflicts of interest.

Republican allies and Trump's transition team have sharply refuted such claims. Isakson said he’s ready to counter any ethics allegations that may come from across the aisle.

“I’m the chairman of the Ethics Committee,” he said. “Nobody knows the law, the STOCK Act, better than I do. Tom … has done a great job and has made no ethics violations.”

Georgia’s senior senator will be introducing Price at his hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee tomorrow before taking his seat behind the dais. (He’s a member of both the Senate health panel and the Finance Committee, the other body that is vetting Price’s nomination.)

Read more about what to expect at Price's Wednesday confirmation hearing – the first of two – here.

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