Donald Trump's leading contender for health chief is an outspoken foe of gay rights and Obamcare

As a physician and head of House Budget Committee, Price already has a loud voice in Congress

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The Independent US

Donald Trump’s cabinet picks are likely to include a conservative member of Congress as his top health and human services chief who has a record of excoriating Obamacare and opposing legislation to protect the gay, lesbian and transgender community.

The speculation that the President-elect plans to nominate Congressman Tom Price, a Republican from Georgia, as the Health and Human Services Secretary, has sowed alarm among LGBTQ groups who are on high alert for any roll-back of progress made under President Barack Obama. 

The Congressman, who leads the House Budget Committee in the House, has a zero per cent rating from the Human Rights Committee, the most influential advocacy group for the LGBTQ community. His public stance against abortion has earned him a similar rating from the National Right to Life Committee.

Mr Price, 62, an orthopedic surgeon, has above all, however, been a cheerleader for conservative members of the House determined to overturn Obamacare, the signature legislative achievement of President Obama, that is now threatened with slow strangulation. 

A close friend of Paul Ryan, the House speaker who has also made repealing Obamacare a top priority, the congressman has tabled his own bill for replacing the Mr Obama’s law, which was first approved in 2010 and later upheld by the US Supreme Court. 

His ‘Empowering Patients First Act’ would, according to a statement from his own office, offer a law that “fully repeals Obamacare and starts over with patient-centred solutions,” including “individual health pools and expanded health savings accounts, tax credits for the purchase of coverage and lawsuit abuse reforms to reduce the costly practice of defensive medicine.”

Mr Price was one of a few members of Congress who was comfortable publicly supporting Mr Trump during the campaign, in a way that Mr Ryan was not. Appearing with Mr Trump at one rally, he made clear to Trump supporters that he wanted to lead the way consigning Obamacare to history. 

“The things that we all believe about health care — we want a system that is affordable for everybody, that is accessible for everybody, that is of the highest quality and provides choices for patients — all of those things have been destroyed by Obamacare,“ he said at the rally. That is ”why we need Donald Trump and Mike Pence to work with us and make sure we put in place a real health solution.”

The fear he strikes in the LGBTQ community partly stems from is record in Congress where, for instance, he voted against bills that variously promised to end job discrimination based on sexual orientation and to enforce laws against anti-gay hate crimes.

During a 2013 conference call with members of a far right group called Tea Party Unity, Mr Price reportedly agreed with a caller that it was time for Congress to study the “health impact and economic impact” of the “homosexual agenda”. The caller was Rabbi Noson Leiter, who had previously blamed Hurricane Sandy of 2012 on New York passing a gay marriage law.

“The consequences of activity that has been seen as outside the norm are real and must be explored completely… (before) moving forward with any social legislation that would alter things,” Mr Price replied, according to Right Wing Watch. “I’m always struck by people who wake up one morning and think that they’ve got a grand new way of doing something when as you all know that the tried and true traditions in history that made us great are preserved and have survived because they are effective.”

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