On September 29, Tom Price, a former Republican congressman from Georgia, resigned his position as United States Secretary of Health and Human Services. Price has a renowned reputation to be aggressive with budgets while fighting government waste and restricting spending, reports NPR.
Recent reports placed Price under several investigations scrutinizing his use of military jets and private charter to travel within the country at the taxpayer’s expense.
Politico first reported, in late September, that Price cost taxpaying citizens approximately $1 million. This figure can be broken down into $500,000 in military planes and $400,000 for private charters. After analyzing Price’s domestic travel, it was found that his transportation could have been provided by inexpensive commercial flights.
Price received adversarial commentary from his colleagues criticizing his unprofessional and unethical use of transportation. According to NPR, Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, expressed her anger through a letter to Price about his travels.
“The decision is particularly shocking as you serve in an administration that routinely calls for draconian spending cuts and a reduction in government waste,” said Murray “and you yourself have repeatedly advocated for fiscal restraint,” reports NPR.
In response to the critics, The New York Times reported that Price tried to comprise the damage by declaring he will eventually pay for the cost of his seats, which accumulates to only about $52,000. This payment does not include the cost of his staff and family member’s seats, causing critics to be unsatisfied. “I regret the concerns this has raised regarding the use of taxpayer dollars,” Price said in a statement.
Prior to meeting with the press, The New York Times reports that President Trump rebuked Price in the Oval Office for two hours. When questioned by reporters, President Trump commented, “I can tell you, I’m not happy”. He added that Price is “a very good man,” but his efforts for reparations on his traveling habits “would be unacceptable.”
According to multiple sources, President Trump has appointed Don J. Wright, a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health and the director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, to serve as the acting secretary.
The question now becomes who will step forward as the new Health Secretary. BBC declared that possible candidates to succeed Price include Scott Gottlieb, currently the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Democrats have collectively criticized the President on his administration, especially after the recent incident with Price.
According to The New York Times, Joseph Crowley of New York, a chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said “President Trump talked a big game about draining the swamp, yet he continues to surround himself with staff and administration officials who behave as though a separate set of rules apply to them. That must end.” This adds an immense amount of pressure to the President’s ongoing criticism on behalf of his staff members.