Everyday News Update

Tom Price to halt taxpayer-funded travel on private jets – POLITICO – Politico


U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price speaks during an event titled "The Next Pandemic" at the World Health Organization office in Beijing Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. Price says China has been an "incredible partner" in cracking down on synthetic opioids seen as fueling fast-rising overdose deaths in the United States. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Ng Han Guan/AP Photo

POLITICO has identified more than $400,000 in charter jet spending for the HHS secretary’s travels since May.

09/23/2017 04:09 PM EDT

Updated 09/23/2017 06:34 PM EDT


Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told Fox News on Saturday that he’ll stop his taxpayer-funded travel on private jets, pending a formal review by his department’s inspector general.

“We’ve heard the criticism. We’ve heard the concerns. We take that very seriously and have taken it to heart,” Price said.

Story Continued Below

Price continued to take charter jets after a POLITICO investigation identified that the HHS secretary had been chartering private planes to conduct official business for months. The cost of his trips this past week was $56,500, according to a federal contract.

An HHS spokesperson said this past week’s schedule was already set and the plane had been pre-booked before POLITICO raised questions about Price’s travels.

POLITICO has now identified more than $400,000 in charter jet spending for Price’s travels since May.

Pressed by a Fox News host, Price allowed that “the optics in some of this don’t look good,” but he said that his situation differed from when he criticized then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2010 for “flying over our country in a luxury jet.” As speaker, Pelosi had access to government aircraft and frequently took flights back and forth between Washington and California.

Price said that HHS would “cooperate fully” with the HHS inspector general review, which is already underway, and his department has begun its own review of its travel practices.

“We welcome this review,” Price said. “We want to make certain that we have the full confidence of not just this administration, but the American people.” He added that all flights that he took were subject to legal review.

Price also defended his travel practices as necessary for public health or combating emergencies. “Of the 11 trips over the last eight months, the majority of them were for the opioid crisis or the hurricanes,” Price said.

Many of those 11 trips involved separate flights to multiple airports across several days, and POLITICO has identified at least 10 distinct charter flights since May that were not related to either the opioid crisis or hurricane response, including flights to conferences in San Diego and Aspen, Colorado.

Price has taken at least 26 flights on private charter planes at taxpayers’ expense since early May, including a flight on a private jet to Oklahoma this week, POLITICO reported on Thursday.

A spokesperson for Price said that the HHS secretary began using charter jets after a delay of a commercial flight forced him to miss an official HHS event. POLITICO on Friday identified that missed event as an industry conference in April at a Ritz-Carlton hotel in California. Price’s commercial flight was delayed because of storms in the Washington region that grounded hundreds of flights and prevented charter planes from taking off, too.

Price’s use of private jets breaks with the practices of Obama administration HHS secretaries Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, who flew commercially while in the continental United States and deliberately avoided taking charter jets. HHS staff last year scrapped a proposal for Burwell to take a multi-city tour linked to the kickoff of annual Obamacare enrollment because the trip would have required charter aircraft and cost about $60,000.

On Fox News, Price said that he’s been able to balance scrutiny of his private-jet use with other priorities like Republicans’ Obamacare repeal. “I have carried on multiple – tens literally – of conversations and phone calls just this past week on the repeal-and-replace effort,” Price said. That effort is now hanging on by a thread after Sen.

John McCain
came out against the legislation on Friday. Senate Republicans, who are still working to salvage the bill, have until Sept. 30 to repeal the law with only 50 votes.

POLITICO on Thursday reported that administration officials have been skeptical of Price’s frequent travels, with one senior White House official saying the HHS secretary was “nowhere to be found” as they were mounting a last-ditch push for ACA repeal.

Congressional Democrats have attacked Price for calling for massive spending cuts to the health agencies he oversees even while spending tens of thousands of dollars on private jets. “There could not be a clearer statement of the Trump administration’s priorities,” Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) said in a statement. Key Democrats overseeing health issues in Congress had formally requested that HHS’s inspector general review Price’s travel practices and whether they comply with federal travel regulations.

Price implied that the criticism of his travel was politically motivated. “Remember that there are folks who want to see this president fail; there are folks who want to see this administration fail,” he said. “That is part of the stream; we are swimming upstream against that kind of current, but that’s not dissuading us at all.”

Rachana Pradhan contributed reporting.

Tom Price to halt taxpayer-funded travel on private jets – POLITICO – Politico

Leave a Reply

Featured Links

    Search Archive

    Search by Date
    Search by Category
    Search with Google
    @2012 Designed By Quick News Update