Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price took almost a half dozen domestic trips on private jets last week, Politico reported Tuesday night, becoming the latest Trump administration official to be accused of inappropriate travel.
Price took several privately chartered flights between September 13 and 15 from Washington, D.C., to and around the northeast, to participate in meetings and discussions with health care companies and executives, according to Politico, which cited airport records and internal Department of Health and Human Services documents. POLITICO alsopointed out that President Obama's HHS secretaries, Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, flew commercial while traveling domestically.
Politico reported Monday that Price opted for private travel as many as five times last week, including a stop in Philadelphia on a private jet from Virginia's Dulles airport, which is just a 135-mile trip. "Let's see if more money helps that out" is the wrong way", Price told CNN's Sanjay Gupta.
Cummings asked Price to provide the Oversight Committee with details by October 10 about the number and full costs of each private flight.
"American taxpayers deserve assurances that their tax dollars are not wasted by the government's highest officials, and we are committed to holding Secretary Price to his stated pledges to reduce waste throughout the Department". And Price is apparently not the only top Trump administration official regularly taking private charter flights.
An Amtrak round-trip ticket for the Washington-to-Philadelphia route, purchased in advance, would have cost as little as $144 for each of the roughly eleven people aboard that trip's chartered plane.
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The Politico report comes as Price himself continues to lobby for deep cuts within the HHS budget. Earlier this week, we learned that Price had taken a page from Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin's playbook and made a decision to spend thousands of dollars in taxpayer money on private jets when commercial flights (or Amtrak, or a car) would have sufficed.
HHS told the news organization that the secretary took private flights when commercial flights weren't available.
Way back in 2009, when fiscal austerity was still in vogue, Congressman Tom Price was among the most hawkish lawmakers on the issue of government spending.
Outside of a small group of Cabinet members, military and law enforcement officials who travel on government planes for national security reasons, strict travel regulations require agencies to cite exceptional circumstances to justify someone in the federal government using noncommercial airline travel.