Health and Human Services Secretary – and former Georgia 6th district representative – Tom Price has found himself at the center of controversy over his use of chartered flights. On Thursday he attempted to quell the issue by announcing that he will write a check for nearly $52,000 to pay for the flights he has taken.
In a statement, Price said, “I regret the concerns this has raised regarding the use of taxpayer dollars,” and he noted that “[t]he taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes.” The secretary also said that he will cease relying on private air travel.
According to Politico, many of the chartered flights Price had taken had much cheaper commercial alternatives. At the same time, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that, given Price’s well documented opposition to Obamacare both during and after his time in Congress, along with the current climate of incivility, Price on a commercial flight could prove to be disruptive to other travelers.
The Politico investigation that centered on Price has led to scrutiny of other member of Cabinet as well. Needless to say, President Trump is none too happy with the bad press the Price investigation has brought to the administration, and there are even calls to fire the secretary.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday wouldn’t commit to keeping Price in his administration, saying only “we’ll see” when asked whether Price would be fired. Trump has privately fumed over Price’s use of expensive charter jets, and some aides have called for firing Price. Hours before Price’s announcement, the White House on Thursday said it had ordered HHS to halt all private flights.
“As the president said yesterday, he’s not thrilled — certainly not happy with the actions,” White House press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
Price has said that he is working to “regain the trust” of both the American people and the Trump administration. The real question is: will Price’s act of contrition be enough to call off the Democrats who go after the GOP at every opportunity? Probably not. Will Politico find more reasons to put members of the administration in a negative light? Probably so.
As long as a Republican is in office, nitpicking like this will never go away.