By Hannah Bouchard
On September 29, Tom Price resigned as President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services after almost eight months, making his term the shortest in history. After a scandal involving his use of tax-funded charter flights, Price had “offered his resignation… and the President accepted,” according to the White House’s press statement.
The biggest scandal surrounding Price concerned his use of private planes. Since May, Price commandeered 24 private flights, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and were used “to fly distances often as short as from Washington to Philadelphia,” states CNN. Allison Karpiak (‘21) explained, “I was not really surprised to find out about Price’s resignation because of all the controversy. I don’t understand how this wasn’t taken care of sooner. He should have to reimburse the taxpayers fully or issue an apology and plan to fix this.”
Price recognized the outrage at his actions and offered to pay the government $51,887, though the cost of his charter flights is approximated to be at least $400,000. Price also utilized two military aircrafts to travel, bringing the total cost to upwards of $1 million. Price’s justification for this partial reimbursement was that it “represented the cost of his seat on the trips,” according to the New York Times.
Being that one of Trump’s campaign trail promises was to “drain the swamp,” the careless use of taxpayer dollars caused his supporters to push for Price’s removal. Trump stated, “I was disappointed because I didn’t like it, cosmetically or otherwise. I was disappointed.”
Price opposed the Affordable Care Act, but was repeatedly unable to pass legislation repealing it. Trump had previously threatened to fire Price if he failed to do so, and this, in combination with the travel bills, led to Price’s eventual decision to resign.
A statement from the Press Secretary states that Don J. Wright, former Assistant Secretary for Health, will serve as incumbent Secretary of Health and Human Services.
CNN reports that Price’s private flights had been approved by the Office of Government Ethics, though the overall price-tag was shocking nonetheless.The news network states, “The White House said this week it was examining whether to adopt stricter oversight of Cabinet secretaries’ travel plans.” To avoid the possibility of removal from the Trump administration, cabinet members have been releasing statements excusing travel costs. Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has been attempting to excuse his $60,000 travel costs, blaming unavailable commercial flights or scheduling issues.
It seems probable that the White House will encourage officials to take commercial flights more often in light of this scandal. “I don’t think they should enforce commercial flights, although there is this scandal. With the current political polarization, I don’t feel like our government officials would be safe on commercial flights. Of course they’re all buffoons, but we have to at least keep them safe,” says Brian Jones (‘21).
Image courtesy of Business Insider