Dems Request Thorough Review Of HHS Secretary Price’s Travel Expenditures

Tom Williams/CQPHO

Following “troubling” reports from Politico about Health and Human Service (HHS) Secretary Tom Price’s use of private jets for official travel, five Democratic congressional leaders are requesting a thorough review of Price’s travel practices, citing concerns that the trips have cost tax payers tens of thousands of dollars.

In a letter to HHS’ inspector general Wednesday, the Democrats — spearheaded by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) — outlined the information Politico reported Tuesday, claiming Price’s use of private jets for five official business trips up and down the East Coast last week have cost an estimated $60,000.

The group is demanding to know who is paying for Price’s charter travel and how much it is costing tax payers.

They said federal regulations allow the use of government or charter aircraft when it is the “most cost-effective mode of travel,” but that separate HHS policy requires all travel be by the “most expeditious” means possible and should “commensurate with the nature and purpose of the duties involved.”

A spokesperson for the department released a statement Wednesday saying they try to find commercial travel options for Price as often as possible, but claimed his schedule is very hectic and it’s not always “feasible.”

They also said Price is “currently managing” recovery and preparation efforts for “three major hurricanes” to apparently illustrate his busy schedule or need for charter travel, but the trips Price made last week were meetings with health organizations in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

“Given these requirements, it is unclear why Secretary Price would require such costly travel in these instances when more economical options were reportedly available,” the letter said, referencing the portion of the Politico report that outline all the commercial options available during the days and times of Price’s travel last week.

Pallone and the other Democrats who signed the letter — Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) — said the reports are “particularly troubling” because of Price’s “repeated statements regarding his intentions to reduce the waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Read the full letter below:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.
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