Tom Price says he’ll pay back private plane travel

Last Updated Sep 28, 2017 5:10 PM EDT

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on Thursday said he will pay the federal government back for all his private charter travel, and take “no more” private charter planes while serving as secretary.

But Price only pledged to pay back the cost of his “seat” in an HHS statement, and an HHS spokesperson told CBS News Price’s check to the U.S. Treasury amounts to $51,887.31. That’s far below the $400,000 or more Politico, which first reported the story, claims Price has racked up in private flights. Then again, HHS differs with Politico on how many private charter flights Price has taken — Politico claims there were at least 24 flights in recent months, while Price claims there were only 11. 

The pledge comes as Price is under fire — even from President Trump — for taking government-funded private flights for routine government travel. Price’s travel is under investigation by the HHS inspector general, and Mr. Trump on Wednesday said he is “not happy” with Price and didn’t rule out firing him. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, sent a letter to Mr. Trump on Thursday asking for his explanation on the travel of Price and other cabinet members. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is also under scrutiny from the Treasury Department’s inspector general for his travel on the government dime, and Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt took non-commercial flights worth more than $58,000, as has CBS News reported.

HHS issued a statement from Price Thursday, in which Price said he would take no more private charter flights while secretary, “no exceptions,” and write a personal check to the U.S. Treasury for the expenses of his travel on private charter planes. 

But the statement said taxpayers will not pay a “dime” for his “seat,” raising questions about whether Price will pay for the full cost of the plane, or just a portion of it. 

“All of my political career I’ve fought for the taxpayers. It is clear to me that in this case, I was not sensitive enough to my concern for the taxpayer,” Price said in the statement. “I know as well as anyone that the American people want to know that their hard-earned dollars are being spent wisely by government officials.”

When he was in Congress before joining the administration, Price preached fiscal conservatism, and harped on then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for…

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