Tom Price has resigned as health and human services secretary, the White House announced on Friday.
“Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas Price offered his resignation earlier today, and the President accepted,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement.
Price in recent days had elicited bipartisan outrage over the cost of his air travel. Politico has reported that Price has cost taxpayers more than $US1 million between his use of private planes for domestic travel and military jets for recent trips to Africa, Europe, and Asia.
In a letter to President Donald Trump on Friday, Price said he was submitting his resignation to allow the administration to “move forward without further disruption.”
“I have spent forty years both as a doctor and public servant putting people first,” Price said in the letter. “I regret that recent events have created a distraction from these important objectives.”
Trump earlier on Friday afternoon had said he would decide later in the day whether to fire Price.
“He’s a very fine person. I certainly don’t like the optics,” Trump told reporters as he was boarding Marine One. “I’m not happy, I can tell you that. I’m not happy.”
He added: “We have great secretaries, and we have some that actually own their own planes, so that solves that.”
Trump intends to designate Don Wright as acting secretary, the White House said. Wright is currently the deputy assistant secretary for health and the director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Politico has found that Price opted for private travel over commercial flights 24 times since May, exceeding $US400,000. His use of military jets for international travel, on which his wife, Betty, joined him, cost taxpayers more than $US500,000, the outlet reported.
The Department of Health and Human Services launched an internal review of his flights, and Price, at the time, said he welcomed the review.
Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he was “looking into it” and declined to say whether he had confidence in Price.
“I will tell you, personally, I’m not happy about it,” he said. “I am not happy about it. I’m going to look at it. I let him know it.”
Price had said earlier this week he planned to reimburse the government roughly $US52,000 for the cost of his seat on the private domestic flights he took, but it’s unclear if he will still do so in the wake of his resignation. Price has already reimbursed the government for the cost of his wife’s travel on the international flights, a spokeswoman for his office said.
Price, despite being well-liked among Republicans during his tenure as a congressman representing Georgia, was fiercely opposed by Democrats when Trump nominated him to the HHS post. Price was a longtime critic of Obamacare and proponent of cutting or restructuring the Medicaid and Medicare programs.
Price had also drawn scrutiny over his trading in health company stocks at the same time he was working on healthcare legislation. Price maintained that his actions were legal and ethical.
Read Price’s resignation letter in full:
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