John Barrasso

Sen. John Barrasso speaks during the Casper Chamber of Commerce State of the Nation Lunch in August at the Casper Events Center. He recently stated he is not interested in becoming the new secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Josh Galemore, Star-Tribune

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming says he won’t be joining the Trump administration as Health and Human Services secretary.

Barrasso confirmed Monday that the White House had reached out to him about the role but said he preferred to remain in the Senate.

Barrasso, a medical doctor by trade, has been vocal in supporting GOP’s repeated efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act but said his job was to serve the people of Wyoming.

“I was honored to speak with the White House. I know there are others who will serve the president well at HHS. I believe I can best represent Wyoming and help the president by fighting for a conservative agenda as an ally in Congress,” Barrasso said in a statement released to the Star-Tribune.

Political news website Axios first reported that Barrasso was being considered for the HHS post, citing sources who said President Donald Trump believed Barrasso was one of the best advocates for Republican health care policies.

The Casper surgeon frequently appears on cable television to discuss health care policy, including efforts to repeal Obamacare. Trump is known to frequently watch cable news shows to keep up on political events.

Barrasso is the fourth-ranking Republican in the Senate.

He is now the second statewide official in Wyoming to bow out of consideration for a position in the Trump administration. Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican, said he was considered among a list of potential candidates to head the Interior Department following Trump’s election last fall but made clear that he was not interested in the job. Mead said recently that he did not regret turning down the post.

The HHS job became available following the ouster of previous secretary Tom Price, who faced criticism over the use of private charter planes.

The Health and Human Services chief oversees a $1 trillion department, with 80,000 employees and jurisdiction over major insurance programs, advanced medical research, drug and food safety, public health and disease prevention.

Trump has named Don J. Wright, a deputy assistant secretary of health, to serve as acting secretary.

Price, 62, a former GOP congressman from the Atlanta suburbs, resigned Friday afternoon. His pattern of costly trips triggered investigations that overshadowed the administration’s agenda and angered his boss. Price’s regrets and a partial repayment couldn’t save his job.

Price became the first member of Trump’s Cabinet to be pushed out in a turbulent young administration that has seen several high-ranking White House aides ousted. He served less than eight months.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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Arno Rosenfeld covers state politics including the Legislature and Wyoming’s D.C. delegation, focusing especially on the major issues facing the Cowboy State like economic diversification and what it means to be the most conservative state in the nation.

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