The travel controversy is the latest incident to raise ethical questions about Price during his seven-month term as Trump’s health chief.
Price, an orthopedic surgeon and former House Budget Committee chairman, was surrounded by controversy since his nomination to the nation’s top health post in January. He made questionable stock trades in health care companies while a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee and interceded on behalf of donors with federal agencies. Democrats in the Senate fought his confirmation, charging that he was too ethically challenged to serve as HHS secretary. Price’s four-paragraph resignation letter stated, in part:
“I have spent forty years both as a doctor and public servant putting people first. I regret that the recent events have created a distraction from these important objectives.”
Politico published five stories over the last 10 days that revealed Price had spent more than $1 million in taxpayer money on travel since May, including overseas flights on military aircrafts and more than two dozen domestic trips on private planes.
Other media outlets amplified the revelations, with cable news frequently running damaging captions and reporters peppering Trump and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about the growing scandal throughout the week. Read about the path to the breaking point in Politico
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.
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, as 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. Democrats were glad to see Price go. Some urged Trump to appoint an HHS secretary who would reach out to them. Read more from The Associated Press