Inadvertent comic relief from Al Franken at the Price hearing

At Tom Price’s hearing yesterday, the Democrats focused on alleged ethics problems. One involved the purchase of Zimmer Biomet stock. John has discussed this purchase which was directed by Price’s stockbroker as part of ongoing management of the congressman’s investments.

A second involved the purchase of Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotech company. The decision to make this purchase was Price’s. There is a dispute between Price and Sen. Patty Murray about what the nominee told the Senator, during his courtesy visit, regarding the circumstances of the purchase. Whatever those circumstances, the fact that Price directed this purchase enabled Murray and others to question him about advocacy in Congress that may have served that company’s interests.

I want to focus, though, on a third “ethics” issue, one raised by Sen. Al Franken.

Franken began by getting Price to admit that smoking is bad for one’s health. Great lawyering, Al.

Having brilliantly set Price up, Franken pulled his ace. Isn’t it true that you, Tom Price, a medical doctor, have owned tobacco stocks?

Price responded that such stocks would have been purchased through a mutual fund and that, like most people, he didn’t know all of the stocks that were in his funds. He suggested that many Senators, Franken probably included, have owned tobacco stocks through mutual funds.

Franken didn’t back off. He said he found it very hard to believe that Price didn’t realize he owned tobacco stock. Franken rested his case and moved on.

But later, Sen. Johnny Isakson pointed out that Franken owns Phillip Morris stock in a mutual fund. Franken could be heard protesting “this is different from mutual funds.”

That’s true as to Zimmer Biomet and Innate, but not as to the tobacco stocks that Franken clownishly injected into the proceedings.

There wasn’t much to laugh at during the DeVos and Price hearings before the Senate Health, Labor, Education & Pensions Committee. Fortunately, we can usually count on Al Franken for comic relief.

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