HHS Secretary Tom Price is out, amid private charter scandal

Tom Price
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price attends an opioid roundtable discussion in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. First lady Melania Trump invited experts and people affected by addiction to opioids to the White House for a listening session and discussion about the epidemic. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(CBS NEWS) – Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price is out, amid intense scrutiny for his use of private charter planes.

Price “offered his resignation earlier today and the President accepted,” a statement by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday afternoon. The president intends to designate Don J. Wright to serve as acting secretary, the statement went on to say. He’s currently deputy assistant HHS secretary.

Price’s tenure in the Trump administration lasted less than eight months.

President Trump indicated he might fire Price Friday afternoon, when he told reporters he would make a decision “tonight” about the secretary’s fate, and said he was “not happy” with the “optics” of the situation. Mr. Trump at the time called Price a “very fine person.”

The trouble began last week, when Politico reported Price had billed the government for at least $400,000 in private charter planes. On Thursday night, Politico reported Price also used at least $500,000 worth of military jet travel abroad for him and his wife, Betty.

Mr. Trump brought Price, an orthopedic surgeon, on board to implement the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. But the Senate was unable to muster the votes for any such legislation, much to Mr. Trump’s disappointment. At a Boy Scouts Jamboree rally in July, Mr. Trump pressured Price to persuade Republicans on Capitol Hill to vote to repeal and replace Obamacare. Mr. Trump said if Price didn’t “get” the votes needed to kill “this horrible thing known as Obamacare … I’ll say Tom, you’re fired.”

Price preached fiscal conservatism during his time in Congress, criticizing then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for her use of a private jet.

Price’s net worth is estimated at $13.6 million.

Price isn’t the only secretary under fire for his travel expenses. The Treasury Department’s inspector general is looking into Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s travel after he reportedly used a government plane to view the eclipse. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt is also under scrutiny for spending more than $58,000 on taxpayer-funded non-commercial flights, CBS News has reported.

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