Two Indian Americans in the race for newly vacated slot in Trump’s cabinet
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Two Indian Americans in the race for newly vacated slot in Trump’s cabinet

Seema Verma and Bobby Jindal have emerged as leading contenders for the post of the US health secretary.

world Updated: Oct 01, 2017 21:51 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Seema Verma,Bobby Jindal,Donald Trump
File photo of Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services.(NYT)

Two Indian Americans have emerged as leading contenders for the post of the US health secretary, a position in Donald Trump’s cabinet which was vacated by Tom Price earlier this week.

The names of top healthcare official Seema Verma and former governor Bobby Jindal are doing the rounds. If either of them gets the nod, it would be a record second cabinet-rank position from the Indian-origin community after Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN.

Others in the race for the vacant seat include senior health official Don Wright, who was named acting secretary after Price’s exit; Scott Gottlieb, who is presently serving as food and drug administration commissioner; and David Shulkin, the veteran affairs secretary who is said to be Trump’s favourite for the job.

Of the two Indian Americans, Verma figures in most reports. She currently heads the medicaid and medicare services of the health and human services and has been a key administration figure in the ongoing attempts to repeal and replace former Obamacare.

“Administrator Seema Verma is playing the leading role for us in helping us to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Trump said at a White House event earlier. And Verma was the only non-politician who spoke at a Rose Garden celebration after the passage of a House bill to replace Obamacare in May.

The Republican efforts to complete the process has come unstuck in the senate, where the party’s own senators have defected and defeated it. The third and last attempt collapsed the past week, handing the president and the party another embarrassing failure.

However, Trump has never included Verma in his public flogging of those who failed him. She is considered close to vice president Mike Pence as they worked together in Indiana.

Former Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. (Reuters File)

Meanwhile, Jindal, a one-time rival of Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, was on fewer lists, with some reports dismissing his chances as “rumours”.

But he did find a long and flattering report in conservative media agency Newsmax, whose CEO Christopher Ruddy is a friend of Trump and has often spoken for him as a surrogate on sensitive personnel and policy issues. Jindal is “is widely considered one of the most knowledgeable of experts in health services”, the Newsmax report said.

Jindal had been considered by Trump for the position, though the job had eventually gone to Price. And he could get another look but may find his chances dimmed by his strident criticism of Trump in the presidential race.

First Published: Oct 01, 2017 16:47 IST