Tom Price, the physician-turned-congressman who recently became Donald Trump’s first Health and Human Services Secretary, has officially resigned in the middle of a scandal involving Price’s apparent overuse of private jets for government — and possibly personal — travel.
In his official resignation letter [PDF], Secretary Price tells President Trump that he is resigning to allow the administration to focus on something other than claims that Price abused his authority at the expense of taxpayers.
“I regret that the recent events have created a distraction,” writes Price.
Politico was first to report that Price had chartered private planes on at least 26 occasions for official government business, even though there were significantly less expensive commercial options available for these non-emergency trips. The timing of some trips left open the question of whether Price was using taxpayer money to fund personal visits.
Following these revelations, Price apologized to the President and pledged to reimburse the government for the unnecessary travel expenses.
However, the nail in Price’s coffin may have come in a Thursday Politico report which claimed that the Secretary had used military aircraft for travel to Africa, Europe, and Asia, at a reported expense of $500,000 to the American public.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has also taken heat in recent days over reports that he too has used private and military jets when they were not necessary.
As a member of Congress from Georgia, Price was responsible for the one piece of Obamcare repeal legislation that passed both chambers of Congress, only to be vetoed (as predicted) by President Obama in early 2016. Price’s bill was the original basis of the legislation that squeaked through the House in the spring before failing in a late-night vote in the Senate in July.
Price’s sudden departure leaves an empty seat in a critical cabinet position that has authority over a vast array of agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and many others.