HHS: Price Uses Private Jets Because He’s Got A Lot Going On

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, China, 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

Following a report from Politico that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price uses private jets to travel for official business, the department insisted that it tries to find commercial travel options for the secretary.

But that is “not always feasible” with Price’s “incredibly demanding schedule,” a department spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday. 

The department said Price often works 13-plus hours a day and on top of that still tries to travel outside of Washington to meet with the “American people.”

On Tuesday evening, Politico reported that Price used a private jet to travel to conduct official business up and down the East Coast five times last week.

The department said on top of everything else on Price’s plate, he is also “currently managing” recovery and preparation efforts for “three major hurricanes,” but the trips Price made last week were meetings with health organizations in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

While it’s not illegal to use a private jet, the move is unprecedented for a HHS secretary and is ethically considered a dubious practice. In an apparent response to Politico’s story, a ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce committee, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), announced on Wednesday he would ask the department to see a “full accounting” of Price’s travel.

Read the full statement from the department’s Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Charmaine Yoest:

“Within an incredibly demanding schedule full of 13+ hour days, every effort is being made to maximize Secretary Price’s ability to travel outside Washington to meet with the American people and carry out HHS’s missions. Secretary Price is currently managing public health and human services recovery and preparation efforts for 3 major hurricanes.

Secretary Price leads a $1.2 trillion agency – the largest agency in government. The travel department continues to check every possible source for travel needs including commercial, but commercial travel is not always feasible. The President has made it clear his Administration will move power out of Washington and return it to the American people. Secretary Price will continue meeting with the American people outside of the Beltway to hear their concerns and ensure HHS makes decisions that best provide for their needs.”

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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