Tom Price, the US Health and Human Services Secretary, traveled
overseas on military planes at least twice this year, Poltico
reported on Thursday evening.
The White House had twice given Price permission to use military
jets for trips to Africa, Europe, and Asia, Politico said.
Price’s wife, Betty, joined him on those flights, which cost US
taxpayers about $500,000.
The news comes amid a growing scandal over Price’s use of private
chartered flights to conduct government business. Since May, the
health secretary has taken at least 24 such flights, at a cost of
about $400,000 to taxpayers.
That brings the total estimated cost of Price’s private and
military air travel so far this year to more than $1 million,
Price said in a statement on Thursday that
he would pay the government about $52,000 for the cost of his
seat on the private domestic flights. A spokeswoman for his
office said Price reimbursed the government for his wife’s travel
on the international trips.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he was “not happy” about
his health secretary’s frequent use of private planes. “I’m going
to look at it. I let him know it,” Trump said, apparently leaving
open the possibility of firing him.
Price echoed the president’s comments in an interview Thursday
night with Fox News’ Brett Baier. “I look forward to gaining —
regaining the trust of the American people,” Price said, adding
that he also hoped to “gain the trust of the administration and
the president” again.
“There will be no private air charters at HHS going forward,”
Price at one time billed himself as a fiscal conservative. As
recently as 2009, he
rebuked government spending on travel, CNBC reported at the
time, specifically calling out House Democrats who wanted to
spend hundreds of millions of dollars on private jets.