President Donald Trump declared Wednesday that he’s “not happy” with his top health official, putting Tom Price’s job in jeopardy after his costly charter flights triggered a congressional investigation of administration travel.
Asked whether he’s planning on firing Price, Trump responded: “We’ll see.”
A former GOP congressman from Georgia, Price played a supporting role in the fruitless Republican effort to repeal Barack Obama’s health care law, which has been another source of frustration for the president. Price is known as a conservative policy expert, but his penchant for taking private charter aircraft on the taxpayer’s dime is creating new headaches for the White House.
Prompted partly by controversy over Price, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday sent requests for detailed travel records to the White House and 24 departments and agencies, dating back to Trump’s first day in office.
The letters were signed by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and its ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings of Maryland. Lawmakers are demanding information on political appointees’ use of government planes for personal travel, as well as their use of private charters for official travel. The committee wants details by Oct. 10.
The president vented his displeasure with Price to reporters as he left the White House for a trip to sell his tax overhaul in Indianapolis.
“I was looking into it, and I will look into it, and I will tell you personally I’m not happy about it,” Trump responded when asked about Price’s travel. “I am not happy about it. I’m going to look at it. I’m not happy about it and I let him know it.”
Trump’s comments seemed to take the health secretary’s office by surprise. There was no immediate response from the Health and Human Services Department.
Price’s travels were first reported last week by Politico, which said it had identified 26 charter flights at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Cheaper commercial flights were a viable option in many cases.
On a June trip to Nashville, Price also had lunch with his son, who lives in that city, according to Politico. Another trip was from Dulles International Airport in the Washington suburbs to Philadelphia International Airport, a distance of 135 miles.
The HHS inspector general’s office began a review last week to determine if Price complied with federal travel regulations, which generally require officials to minimize costs.