Price Will Cover Cost Of ‘His Seats’ On Private Flights, Not Full Cost Of Planes

Andrew Harnik/AP

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price said Thursday that he would repay the U.S. Treasury for the cost of “my seat” on a number of private charter flights.

An HHS spokesperson later told TPM in an email that “Secretary Price will write a personal check to the US Treasury for $51,887.31. The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for his seats on charter planes.”

Politico exposed upwards of $400,000 in taxpayer dollars spread across dozens of private charter flights in an investigation last week. Since then, the HHS inspector general’s office and the House Oversight Committee have said they’re looking into the matter. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that “we’ll see” about Price’s continued service in his administration.

Price on Thursday morning said “I think we’ve still got the confidence of the President,” but he made much more concrete commitments in a statement later in the day.

In a bulleted list, Price committed to cooperating with the inspector general’s investigation, ceasing all private charter flights as HHS secretary, and writing a personal check “to the US Treasury for the expenses of my travel on private charter planes.”

“The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes,” Price said.

Read the HHS secretary’s full statement:

“I continue to welcome and am cooperating fully with the Office of Inspector General (OIG) review of processes and procedures related to my official travel as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). I have also taken the additional step of initiating a departmental review to determine if any changes or reforms are necessary. As I have previously stated, all of this travel was approved by legal and HHS officials.

“Despite this, I regret the concerns this has raised regarding the use of taxpayer dollars. All of my political career I’ve fought for the taxpayers. It is clear to me that in this case, I was not sensitive enough to my concern for the taxpayer. I know as well as anyone that the American people want to know that their hard-earned dollars are being spent wisely by government officials.

“To make sure everyone knows that I understand and appreciate this, and to make sure everyone knows that this will never happen again, I am taking the following steps:

•My staff and I will continue to cooperate fully with the OIG and internal review.

•I will take no more private charter flights as Secretary of HHS. No exceptions.

•Today, I will write a personal check to the US Treasury for the expenses of my travel on private charter planes. The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes.

“I have spent forty years both as a doctor and in public service putting people first. It has been my personal honor to serve the American people, and I look forward to continuing that service.”’

This post has been updated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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