On Wednesday, President Trump hinted that he would not rule out firing his Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Tom Price. In an embarrassment to the administration, it was recently disclosed that Price has been taking unprecedented numbers of chartered flights under the auspices of his duties as HHS Secretary.
It is an entirely pedestrian affair for high level administration officials to use private jets for travel, as responding to crises, and attending back-to-back meetings across the country is part of the job. However, these taxpayers funded flights have come under scrutiny, as many of the Secretary’s flights have overlapped the personal time, including the use of the private jet for a lunch with his son.
Responding to the disclosures, Trump said, “I am not happy about it. I’m going to look at it. I am not happy about it, and I let him know it.” And, when asked by reports whether he intends on firing Price, he simply responded, “We’ll see.”
The public’s angry reaction to the story is fueling speculation that Price may resign his position. Caitlin Oakley, an HHS spokeswoman said, “As it relates to this issue, as the Secretary said over the weekend, he’s heard the criticism and the concerns. He takes that very seriously and has taken it to heart.”
To Price’s disadvantage, the GOP has repeatedly failed to deliver on healthcare reform – of which he was a major figure during his time in the House of Representatives. And it’s telling that, earlier in the year, Trump joked about the passage of an Obamacare repeal, saying, “He better get them, otherwise I’ll say, ‘Tom, you’re fired.’”
A number of House Democrats have signed a letter demanding Price’s resignation. Ruben Gallego, Pramila Jayapal, Jamie Raskin, Ted Lieu and Brenda Lawrence wrote a letter to Price saying, “In light of your breach of the public trust, we write to urge you to do the right thing and immediately tender your resignation.”
A spokesperson for the Inspector General, currently reviewing the case, said, ‘‘we take this matter very seriously, and when questions arose about potentially inappropriate travel, we immediately began assessing the issue.’’
Price defended the flights, saying that they were for “official business.” He said, “But we’ve heard the criticism, we’ve heard the concerns, and we take that very seriously and have taken that to heart.”
Price said he would stop taking the jet flights while the Inspector General conducts the review.
It should be noted that this isn’t Price’s first time flirting with dangerous controversy. While in the House, he came under fire for trading stocks in certain healthcare firms that pending legislation would deeply affect.