Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is resigning, effective at midnight on Friday, the White House announced in a statement.
Price had come under fire this week for his expensive air travel on the taxpayers’ dime, for trips that often involved personal business — like taking his son to lunch in Nashville, for example.
President Donald Trump has now tapped Virginian Don J. Wright, the deputy assistant health secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, to serve as the acting health secretary.
“I have spent forty years both as a doctor and public servant putting people first,” Price said Friday in his letter of resignation. “I regret that the recent events have created a distraction from these important objectives.”
By taking expensive private jets on the government’s dime, Price argued, he was moving “power out of Washington and returning it to the American people.” But that didn’t fly with Trump, who said earlier this week that he was “not happy” about Price’s use of private planes and would consider firing him.
Price had spent nearly $400,000 in federal funds on his travel, and after fierce criticism he said he’d reimburse the government for about $52,000 — an eighth of what he’d spent.
Politico has meticulously documented Price’s exorbitantly expensive air travel over the course of the last several months, which include:
- A $17,000 trip to Nashville from D.C., where he spent half his day on official business and the other half with his son
- jetting out to the glitzy Aspen Ideas Festival for $7,000
- A $86,000 trip to St. Simon Island, off the coast of Georgia, a haven for the rich from Atlanta, where Price owns a home, and then to five states in four days
- Five flights in three days in mid-September
But Price may have fallen out of favor with Trump before that, for his absence during the Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. During a rally in July, Trump “joked” that if Price couldn’t whip the Senate votes, “You’re fired!”
During Republicans’ first failure on healthcare reform, in March, Price was even caught hanging out at a bar.