Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who has called for massive spending cuts to the health agencies he oversees, has no problem spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on private jets. But after sparking public outrage after it was reported that he was using taxpayer funds for private jets, Price was forced to stop wasting taxpayers money.
During an interview on Fox News on Saturday Price said that he’ll stop his taxpayer-funded travel on private jets, pending a formal review by his department’s inspector general.
“We’ve heard the criticism. We’ve heard the concerns. We take that very seriously and have taken it to heart,” Price said.
As reported by Political Dig last week, the HHS secretary had been chartering private planes for months. The cost of his trips this past week was $56,500, according to a federal contract.
In a separate report, Politico identified more than $400,000 in charter jet spending for Price’s travels since May. In total, Price has taken 26 flights on private planes at taxpayers’ expense during that period.
Price’s use of private jets breaks with the practices of Obama administration HHS secretaries Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, who flew commercially while in the continental United States and deliberately avoided taking charter jets. HHS staff last year scrapped a proposal for Burwell to take a multi-city tour linked to the kickoff of annual Obamacare enrollment because the trip would have required charter aircraft and cost about $60,000.
Trying to defend himself, Price blames the criticism of his travel on “political witch hunt.”
“Remember that there are folks who want to see this president fail; there are folks who want to see this administration fail,” he said. “That is part of the stream; we are swimming upstream against that kind of current, but that’s not dissuading us at all.”
Key Democrats overseeing health issues in Congress had formally requested that HHS’s inspector general review Price’s travel practices and whether they comply with federal travel regulations.
Price admitted that “the optics in some of this don’t look good,” and said that HHS would “cooperate fully” with the HHS inspector general review, which is already underway.