Price says he’ll repay taxpayers for his private jet travel – Politico

‘I regret the concerns this has raised regarding the use of taxpayer dollars,’ the HHS secretary says in a statement.

09/28/2017 04:23 PM EDT

Updated 09/28/2017 05:18 PM EDT

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said he will write a personal check to the federal government for his costs of traveling on private jets and will permanently halt his use of charter flights.

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

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The announcement follows a POLITICO investigation finding that Price has taken at least 26 charter flights costing more than $400,000 since May to conduct official business within the country, and after Price has increasingly come under fire from President Donald Trump and former colleagues in Congress.

It’s unclear how much Price will pay to the U.S. Treasury, but it is likely for just a fraction of the total costs of the flights. Price’s statement referred to paying for “my seat” and did not address the cost of staff and security officials that accompanied him.

Price, whose use of private jets is being investigated by the HHS inspector general, said he will no longer charter flights for official business. “No exceptions,” he said.

Trump on Wednesday wouldn’t commit to keeping Price in his administration, saying only “we’ll see” when asked whether the Georgia Republican would be fired over his use of private planes. Many of Price’s flights were between major cities that offered inexpensive alternatives on commercial airlines, including Nashville, Philadelphia and San Diego. On some of those trips, Price mixed official business with personal affairs.

Price’s statement came amid increasing scrutiny from the Hill. The House Oversight Committee on Wednesday launched a bipartisan investigation into the use of private planes by all Cabinet secretaries. Sen. Chuck Grassley on Thursday sent a letter asking the White House to detail its efforts to control officials’ travel costs.

Price, who represented Georgia for more than a decade in the House, has a longstanding reputation as a fiscal hawk and a staunch opponent of Obamacare. As a former chair of the House Budget Committee, he proposed federal spending plans that would have repealed the 2010 health law and culled hundreds of billions from health care entitlement programs. During his time as secretary, Price backed the White House’s proposal to cut $6 billion from the National Institutes of Health and slash overall HHS spending by 18 percent. Congress rejected those cuts.

On Thursday, Price said he regretted the concerns that his travel practices has raised.

“All of my political career I’ve fought for the taxpayers,” Price said. “It is clear to me that in this case, I was not sensitive enough to my concern for the taxpayer.”


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