President Trump has tapped Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive and a top health official during the George W. Bush administration, to lead the Health and Human Services Department.
The decision to enlist the 50-year-old Azar — who served as president of Lilly USA, the biggest affiliate of Eli Lilly and Co., before stepping down in January to work as a health-care consultant — represents a pragmatic pick. An establishment figure with a reputation as a conservative thinker and methodical lawyer, Azar would be expected to use his experience as HHS general counsel and deputy secretary to pursue Trump’s goals through executive action.
The nominee boasts sterling conservative credentials, clerking for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia before working under special counsel Kenneth Starr to investigate Bill Clinton’s failed Whitewater real estate investments. Still, administration officials think he could work more deftly with competing health-care interests and politicians than his predecessor, Tom Price.
Azar’s ties to Mike Pence date to his days at Lilly, an Indiana-based pharmaceutical firm, when Pence was the state’s governor.
While Azar initially backed Jeb Bush for president in 2016 and served on his Indiana steering committee, he later donated $2,700 to a “Trump Victory” committee. Since 2008, records show, he has donated more than $96,000 to GOP candidates.
In an undated Yale Law School alumni profile, Azar said that he “wrestled with the question” as to whether he should take his first job at HHS but that it set him on the career path he has followed ever since.more » « less