Update: Tom Price has resigned as HHS Secretary amid criticism over his use of private planes.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price issued a statement saying that he intends to repay taxpayers for the private charter flights he took recently.
Price said that they were all done legally as the travel was approved by HHS, but he also said he understands that he “was not sensitive enough to my concern for the taxpayer.”
Amount Price is Repaying
HHS officials confirmed to several media outlets that the amount Price will repay comes to $51,887.31. Price added that it’s an “unprecedented” move. “[It’s] never been done, to our understanding, before by a secretary, in spite of the fact that previous administrations have had secretaries that flew an awful lot,” he told Fox News in an interview.
In its investigation into Price’s travels, Politico reported that the total amount of Price’s use of the planes came to more than $400,000. According to the Washington Post, the amount Price has pledged to repay “appears to cover the cost of his seat on chartered flights but not those of his staffers” which could explain the difference in the two amounts.
Politico noted in its report that the amount Price is paying is “just a fraction of the total costs” but said that HHS did not confirm the details of the discrepancy. Politico also stated, “HHS did not address the costs of the staff and security officials who accompanied Price on those flights.”
An Inspector General review of Price’s travel at HHS has been opened, and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is looking at travel from various federal agencies as well with respect to use of charter flights. Price said in his statement he intends to cooperate fully with the IG investigation and that he has initiated a departmental review to determine if any changes or reforms to agency travel policies are necessary.
President Trump even weighed in on the situation, noting he was unhappy with Price’s decision to take the private flights. “I am not happy with him,” Trump told reporters.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the White House has asked that private charter flights by agency officials be stopped, particularly at HHS, until the investigations are completed.
A copy of Price’s full statement is included below.
Statement of HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D., Regarding Private Charter Airplane Travel
“I continue to welcome and am cooperating fully with the Office of Inspector General (OIG) review of processes and procedures related to my official travel as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). I have also taken the additional step of initiating a departmental review to determine if any changes or reforms are necessary. As I have previously stated, all of this travel was approved by legal and HHS officials.
“Despite this, I regret the concerns this has raised regarding the use of taxpayer dollars. All of my political career I’ve fought for the taxpayers. It is clear to me that in this case, I was not sensitive enough to my concern for the taxpayer. I know as well as anyone that the American people want to know that their hard-earned dollars are being spent wisely by government officials.
“To make sure everyone knows that I understand and appreciate this, and to make sure everyone knows that this will never happen again, I am taking the following steps:
- My staff and I will continue to cooperate fully with the OIG and internal review.
- I will take no more private charter flights as Secretary of HHS. No exceptions.
- Today, I will write a personal check to the US Treasury for the expenses of my travel on private charter planes. The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes.
“I have spent forty years both as a doctor and in public service putting people first. It has been my personal honor to serve the American people, and I look forward to continuing that service.”