An insufficient number of Senate Republicans showed up Wednesday morning to approve President Trump’s pick to lead a top healthcare agency.

The Senate Finance Committee tied on a 9-9 vote on whether Seema Verma should lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an agency that oversees the federal government’s health insurance programs including the Obamacare marketplaces.

Verma, who helped Indiana and several other states craft alternative Medicaid expansion programs, is expected to eventually be approved as administrator of CMS, although Democrats have raised some ethical concerns and dislike her views on Medicare and Medicaid.

Sen. Ron Wyden, the committee’s top Democrat, voted against approving Verma, saying she hadn’t sufficiently answered his questions about how she would approach the issue of drug prices and Medicaid eligibility.

“What I read was a lot of happy-talk that didn’t amount to much substance,” Wyden said. “That’s deeply troubling for me when considering a position that’s responsible for a trillion dollars of spending on healthcare — something that touches every American family.”

A spokesman for committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said the plan is to hold a second vote later in the day, once enough members are present.

Verma’s nomination has attracted some bipartisan support, unlike HHS Secretary Tom Price, so opposed by Senate Finance Democrats that they boycotted his confirmation vote. Hatch said he hopes some Democrats will vote in favor of Verma.

“I think she is a highly qualified nominee,” Hatch said. “I really don’t think there’s anyone who reasonably disputes that.”

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“Ms. Conway has acknowledged her understanding of the standards” and will abide by them.

03/01/17 12:32 PM

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