Nov 29, 2017

Alex Azar in the hot seat

Alex Azar testifies today on Capitol Hill — which means we'll finally get a new photo of him! This one is from 2006. Photo: Evan Vucci / AP

Alex Azar heads to the Senate HELP Committee today for the first hearing on his way to confirmation as the next secretary of the Health and Human Services Department. HELP won't formally report his nomination to the full Senate, but he's sure to face aggressive questioning today from Democrats.

What we're hearing: Republicans will likely tread pretty easily on Azar, but a Democratic aide outlined three areas Democrats' questioning will likely focus on:

  • ACA "sabotage": Azar has plenty of bad things to say about the ACA, most of them pretty well in line with standard Republican talking points. But if he's confirmed, he'd be charged with overseeing it. Democrats will want to extract some sort of commitment to restore some of the outreach and promotion efforts Trump slashed this year.
  • Drug prices: Let's be real, it's not like the Trump administration was steaming toward tough action on drug prices until Azar came along. That has never been a real priority. Still, look for Democrats to use the nomination of a former pharma CEO as a way to highlight Trump's inaction on a popular campaign promise.
  • Women's health/abortion: Azar has given speeches where he discussed "protecting the unborn," and Democrats will also examine his role in socially conservative policymaking in the George W. Bush administration.

The other side: HELP chairman Alexander plans to say in his opening statement:"You have been confirmed by the Senate twice. ... You have served in the judicial branch as a law clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia and you know the executive branch, having been HHS General Counsel and Deputy Secretary. And you know the private sector."

Go deeper: The hearing starts at 9:30am. You can watch the livestream here.

Go deeper

Humility for forecasters: Jobs shocker is record miss

President Trump speaking in the Rose Garden following the release of the jobs report on May 5, 2020. Photo: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Economists were projecting that May's jobs figures would show a loss of 8 million jobs and an unemployment rate approaching 20% — Great Depression territory.

The state of play: Instead, a record 2.5 million workers were added, and unemployment fell to 13.3% from April's post-World War II high of 14.7%.

Updated 51 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 a.m. ET: 6,772,361 — Total deaths: 395,703 — Total recoveries — 2,772,730Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 a.m. ET: 1,898,401 — Total deaths: 109,137 — Total recoveries: 491,706 — Total tested: 19,231,444Map.
  3. Public health: Fauci: "Very concerned" about spread of coronavirus amid George Floyd protests — Cities offer free coronavirus testing amid protests
  4. Sports: How coronavirus could reshuffle the sports calendar.
  5. Jobs: Better-than-expected jobs report boosts stock market.

Trump's week of viral quicksand

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Stories about President Trump's photo op at St. John's church after peaceful protesters were forcefully cleared from the area averaged the most online attention of any issue about the president this week.

Why it matters: Trump's force-over-compassion approach to the demonstrators protesting the murder of George Floyd had Republican allies backpedaling to keep a distance — and led to a wave of condemnations that got plenty of online traction on their own.