The Senate confirmed the nomination of Alex Azar as head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Wednesday by a vote of 55-43.
Azar served for two years at HHS as deputy secretary under former President George W. Bush and served as a general counsel of the department prior to that.
He is a graduate of Yale Law School and served for five years as president of the U.S. division of the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co, stepping down in 2017. Democrats have raised concerns over how his background in pharmaceuticals might affect his ability to tackle the Trump administration’s priority of lowering high prescription drug prices.
Azar, who once clerked for the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, was also questioned by Democrats about his stance on abortion and conscience rights.
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) asked Azar in November if he would commit to putting "science and health care access first," rather than "ideology and extremism."
"We have to balance a woman's choice of insurance that she would want with the conscience of their employers," Azar said.
HHS recently announced a new division to arbitrate conscience and religious freedom complaints.
Azar replaces Dr. Tom Price who resigned in September after a Politico investigation found that the government paid more than $1 million for his travel on charter jets.