Archive for Friday, September 29, 2017

Trump’s health secretary resigns over travel flap

In this June 15, 2017, file photo, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Price announced Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, that he is resigning amid criticism of his travel on private planes.

In this June 15, 2017, file photo, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Price announced Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, that he is resigning amid criticism of his travel on private planes.

September 29, 2017, 5:02 p.m. Updated September 29, 2017, 5:11 p.m.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's health secretary resigned Friday, after his costly travel triggered investigations that overshadowed the administration's agenda and angered his boss. Tom Price's regrets and partial repayment couldn't save his job.

The Health and Human Services secretary became the first member of the president's Cabinet to be pushed out in a turbulent young administration that has seen several high-ranking White House aides ousted. A former GOP congressman from the Atlanta suburbs, Price served less than eight months.

Publicly, Trump had said he was "not happy" with Price for repeatedly using private charter aircraft for official trips on the taxpayer's dime, when cheaper commercial flights would have done in many cases.

Privately, Trump has been telling associates in recent days that his health chief had become a distraction. Trump felt that Price was overshadowing his tax overhaul agenda and undermining his campaign promise to "drain the swamp" of corruption, according to three people familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity.

On Friday the president called Price a "very fine person," but added, "I certainly don't like the optics." Price said in his resignation letter that he regretted that "recent events have created a distraction."

The flap prompted scrutiny of other Cabinet members' travel, as the House Oversight and Government Reform committee launched a governmentwide investigation of top political appointees. Other department heads have been scrambling to explain their own travel.

Price's repayment of $51,887.31 for his own travel costs did not placate the White House. The total travel cost, including the secretary's entourage, was unclear. It could amount to several hundred thousand dollars.

An orthopedic surgeon turned politician, Price rose to Budget Committee chairman in the House, where he was known as a fiscal conservative. When Price joined the administration, Trump touted him as a conservative policy expert who could write a new health care bill to replace the Obama-era Affordable Care Act.

But Price became more of a supporting player in the GOP's futile health care campaign, while Vice President Mike Pence took the lead, particularly with the Senate. The perception of Price jetting around while GOP lawmakers labored to repeal "Obamacare" —including a three-nation trip in May to Africa and Europe— raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill. Price flew on military aircraft overseas.

Although much of Trump's ire over the health care failure has been aimed at the Republican-controlled Congress, associates of the president said he also assigns some blame to Price, who he believes did not do a good job of selling the GOP plan.

But House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Friday that Price had worked hard to help that chamber pass its plan before the GOP effort reached an impasse in the Senate. "I will always be grateful for Tom's service to this country," he said.

Democrats were glad to see Price go. Some urged Trump to appoint an HHS secretary who would reach out to them.

"I hope President Trump learns from this mistake, and looks to appoint someone who can work in a bipartisan way to strengthen health care for all Americans," said Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J.

A Pence protege, Seema Verma, has been mentioned as a possible successor to Price. Verma already leads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs health insurance programs that cover more than 130 million Americans.

Another possible HHS candidate: FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who won some bipartisan support in his confirmation and is well known in policy, government and industry circles.

Trump named Don J. Wright, a deputy assistant secretary of health, to serve as acting secretary.

Price, 62, was seen in Congress as a foe of wasteful spending. As HHS secretary, he led a $1 trillion department whose future is the key to managing mounting federal budgetary deficits. As secretary, Price criticized the Medicaid health program for low-income people, saying it doesn't deliver results commensurate with the hundreds of billions of dollars taxpayers spend on it. As a congressman, he favored Medicare privatization.

But Price's image as a budget hawk took a hit when reports of his official travel started bubbling up. Price used private charter flights on 10 trips with multiple segments, when in many cases cheaper commercial flights were available. His charter travel was first reported by the news site Politico.

On a trip in June to Nashville, Tennessee, 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 reports triggered a review by the HHS inspector general's office, which is looking into whether Price's travel violated federal travel regulations. Those rules generally require officials to minimize costs.

The controversy over Price was a catalyst for Congress launching a bipartisan probe of travel by political appointees across the administration. The House oversight committee has requested travel records from the White House and 24 federal departments and agencies.

Initially, Price's office said the secretary's busy scheduled forced him to use charters from time to time.

But later Price's response changed, and he said he'd heard the criticism and concern, and taken it to heart.

Comments

Ray Mizumura 2 weeks, 5 days ago

Another scumbag down, but the cesspool that is the Trump administration still runneth over.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 weeks, 5 days ago

Ooooh..watch out Ray......the "Bobs" will be including you in their silly list of "congenital liberals!!

Ray Mizumura 2 weeks, 4 days ago

Oh, I think I'm there already, no problem Fred. If their obsessions with defending the indefensible keep them off the streets, it's all good.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 weeks, 5 days ago

That's what you get when you hire a bunch of rich people who can't demean themselves to fly commercial. I mean they can even fly first class and it would be cheaper. And to Philadelphia? There is a real nice commuter train.

Michael Kort 2 weeks, 5 days ago

Thank God for Tom Price........... or we might all be talking about is what it costs the tax payers to send The Donald down to Moron-Lago or to advertise some other Trump property every other weekend with his Presidential 747 gas guzzler and an $ expensive crew and entourage to tie up the local cops here or there baby sitting " his preciousness ".

Trumps underlings look at his excesses and assume that if theirs s less than multi millions weekly that it must be alright .

ORGANIZATIONS RUN FROM THE TOP DOWN AND PRESIDENTIAL EXAMPLE IS THE MOST BELIEVABLE INSTRUCTION FOR PRESIDENTIAL UNDERLINGS..........what a concept that thought must be for some ?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 weeks, 5 days ago

You know.....for a local news outlet that has made plenty of statements about only being concerned about the local news arena, the selective bashing of Trump is strange.

He bashes the players of the NFL and not a whisper is mentioned in this news rag.

But his scumbag "health secretary" resigns after being caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and it gets an article in this paper.

Very unstable and concerning policy regarding the coverage of national news events concerning the unelected, incompetent, debauched "president of the United States".

Richard Heckler 2 weeks, 4 days ago

BIG DOLLAR ALEC DARK MONEY TRAIL IS EVERYWHERE.

This ongoing support for the radical conservative libertarian over throw of the USA with very large amounts of special interest dark money is mind numbing. There is no reason for any such activity.

37 years of voting in ALEC RINO conservatives AND RINO Fundamentalist MINORITY candidates posing as republicans has provided what?

The ALEC Platform Conservatives MUST Adhere to NO matter what rhetoric is played to voters:

--- War against Medical Insurance and Single Payer

--- War on public education and Higher Education

--- War against women

--- War on Voters Rights

--- War On Good Wages aka Right To Work Legislation

--- War On USA Jobs aka Free Trade Agreements and Leveraged Buyout Scams

--- War On Social Security Insurance

--- War On Medicaid

--- War On Medicare

--- War for Oil Control Worldwide

--- War on truth about global warming/climate change http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2010/03/30/174616/koch-denial-machine/

Union of Concerned Scientists http://www.ucsusa.org

Corporate Welfare Profiteering http://www.rightwingwatch.org/report/alec-the-voice-of-corporate-special-interests-in-state-legislatures/#Voter

Bill Moyers on the Secretive Corporate-Legislative Body Writing Our Laws http://www.democracynow.org/2012/9/27/the_united_states_of_alec_bill

=== Pay close attention to this 24/7 organized activity: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/01/koch-brothers-candidate-training-recruiting-aegis-strategic

--- How the Koch brothers helped dismantle the Democratic Party https://samsmitharchives.wordpress.com/2015/04/14/6467/

Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 weeks, 4 days ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Richard Aronoff 2 weeks, 4 days ago

Of course, none of you care that members of the Obama administration did the same thing.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 weeks, 4 days ago

The only people of the Obama administration who used private jets were those who were required to because of their high security status. The Health Secretary isn't in that category. Especially when he flies so much. And flying to Philadelphia? There's a perfectly good commuter train that goes there in no time at all.

Joe Masterson 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Yep, Obama's HHS didn't use private planes, but what is funny is that Price did complain about others in the Obama administration that used private planes.

Ray Mizumura 2 weeks, 4 days ago

Actually, I really don't care that Price used our money to take these flights. What makes me sick about Price and the other thugs and degenerates in this administration is their policies and their worldviews. The money spent for this travel is nothing compared to the kicking they're doing to people who are already down.

Ray Mizumura 2 weeks, 4 days ago

If true, no, I don't care, because the Obama-Biden administration did its best to serve the public interest and often succeeded in doing so despite facing Tea Party goons. (Oh, and where is the Tea Party now? Guess everything's all right with our government now that the militant Muslim is gone). Your crowd serves special, private interests.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 weeks, 4 days ago

Of course!! It is always the fault of the previous black, non-citizen, Muslim legitimate President of the United States. That is your fall back for most everything that Chump does, eh??

Bob Forer 2 weeks, 4 days ago

A herd of pigs slopping at the trough. What an absolute affront to democracy. This administration has the greedy ethics of a third world banana republic.

Steve King 2 weeks, 4 days ago

trump is about his image, making money, making his friends money. How else can you justify allowing the coal companies to pump their waste into our rivers and streams? I want to hear a trump supporter justify this.

Ray Mizumura 2 weeks, 3 days ago

You might be onto something, Steve. So far, none of the Trumpers have stepped forward to justify, but give them time, they'll probably go further and celebrate. I think they're too busy for the moment, screaming about Leonard Pitts or Hillary Clinton or political correctness.

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