Tom Price Cuts HHS Spending by Taking Five Private Jet Flights in One Week

Tom Price Cuts HHS Spending by Taking Five Private Jet Flights in One Week
REUTERS/ Joshua Roberts/File US06:44 21.09.2017Get short URL

US Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who has pledged to cut wasteful spending in his agency, took private jets on at least five separate work-related flights last week.

Unlike his predecessors, who took commercial flights for business trips within the US, Price used the HHS’s budget to travel on private jets to a resort in Maine for a health care industry Q&A, as well as community health centers in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

Earlier in April Price said that one of his goals was to cut redundancy and waste in his agency. In 2009, while serving as a congressman from Georgia, he criticized Congress for authorizing funding for private jets.

But the flights reported by Politico, scheduled between September 13 and 15, cost taxpayers roughly $60,000 more than had he flown commercial.

The revelation comes at a time when other members of the Trump administration, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, are under fire for excessive flights at government’s expense.

An HHS spokesperson told reporters that Price only uses charter aircraft when “commercial aircraft cannot reasonably accommodate travel requirements”. He didn’t specify how many private jets the Secretary has flown since taking office in February, but according to Politico, staffers say he has been using private jets for months.

Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., the top Democrat on the House energy and commerce panel, said Wednesday that Democrats were planning to ask the HHS inspector general to look into the case.

“I would remind Secretary Price that taxpayer funds are not meant to be used as a jet-setting slush fund,” Pallone said in a statement. “There is no reason to be regularly chartering private flights at the taxpayers’ expense between commercially serviced routes such Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia.”

Earlier this year, the Trump administration proposed slashing agency budgets, including a 17.9 percent cut to HHS.