Tom Price apologizes for taking private jets, says he'll reimburse taxpayers for his seat

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price apologised Thursday for taking chartered flights, said he will reimburse taxpayers for his expenses, and promised to fly commercially in the future, multiple outlets reported.

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

The statement came as Price has become engulfed in a controversy over his frequent use of chartered flights, which can cost taxpayers more than $US25,000 each. Even President Donald Trump has publicly scolded Price for his flying habits, which have drawn scrutiny this month.

Politico reported that Price opted for private travel over commercial flights 24 times since May, including five such flights earlier this month. Politico later reported that Price’s private jet tab exceeded $US400,000.

Fox News reported that Price would specifically reimburse the government just more than $US50,000.

Price came under review for his flights, as his department’s inspector general’s office is reviewing the travel to see if it violated any government travel regulations.

Price trips included flights to New Hampshire, a resort in Maine, and even a brief 135-mile trip between Washington, DC, and Philadelphia.

Before joining Trump’s administration, Price served as a Republican congressman from Georgia. As a member of Congress, he railed against what he called frivolous government spending, including similar private travel by fellow members.

On Wednesday, Trump told reporters he was “not happy” with his HHS secretary and left the door open to firing him.

“I was looking into it and I will look into it,” Trump said. “I will tell you personally, I’m not happy about it. I am not happy about it. I’m going to look at it. I let him know it.”

Trump declined to say whether he has confidence in Price, and said “we’ll see” when asked if he would fire the secretary.

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