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Report: Tom Price's Trips Costing Taxpayers $1M

Report: Tom Price's Trips Costing Taxpayers $1M

(Saul Loeb/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 28 September 2017 08:55 PM

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price took three trips aboard military aircraft since May, bringing the total of his travel to American taxpayers to $1 million, according to news reports Thursday.

The trips included to Africa and Europe in the spring, and to Asia this summer, aboard military planes that were approved by the White House, Politico reports.

Those trips alone cost American taxpayers $500,000, according to the report.

Price pledged Thursday to reimburse the government his seat on trips he has taken domestically on private aircraft — $51,800 — but the figure excludes the military flights.

"It is clear to me that in this case, I was not sensitive enough to my concern for the taxpayer," Price said in a statement. "I know as well as anyone that the American people want to know that their hard-earned dollars are being spent wisely by government officials."

Price, the former Georgia Republican congressman, was accompanied by his wife, Betty, on the military flights, Politico reports.

Other Price delegation members flew to Europe on commercial flights.

A White House official confirmed to Politico that President Donald Trump's staff approved the flights.

Trump has slammed Price's use of chartered aircraft on domestic flights, saying "we'll see" when asked whether he would fire Price over the issue.

Price is facing investigations by Congress, along with an HHS probe, Politico reports, of over as many as 24 private flights that cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Agency spokeswoman Charmaine Yoest told Politico Thursday that Price had reimbursed HHS for the cost of his wife's foreign travel, but would not say when he did.

"It's our understanding that previous secretaries have never reimbursed for spousal travel," she said, referring to a trip to Cuba by former Obama administration HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

Former Burwell aides told Politico that she used a military jet for travel to Havana, though she did not respond to requests for comment.

The aides said that she reimbursed the government for the costs of the trip.

According to Politico, the White House determines whether military aircraft can be used for overseas travel by Cabinet members on a per-case basis.

Secretaries whose jobs involve national security functions will most likely require military jets, while the administration occasionally approves the use of military planes for other Cabinet members.

"Use of military aircraft for Cabinet and other essential travelers is sometimes an appropriate and necessary use of resources," Raj Shah, White House principal deputy press secretary, told Politico.

According to the report, Price's foreign trips using military planes included stops in Berlin, Geneva, Beijing, Ho Chi Minh City and Tokyo, where he attended global health meetings and met with other top officials.

In May, Price visited Liberia, where he discussed the nation's response to the Ebola crisis three years ago.

"The trips he's gone on make total sense," a former HHS official told Politico. "It's just how he got there."

Yoest of HHS said the use of military aircraft — known as Milair — was needed for Price's security and his ability to communicate with the agency.

"In both instances, those were Milair flights that were pre-approved," she told Politico. "We don't have a deputy secretary that's been confirmed.

"Milair is important for maintaining security and having secure communications as well."

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Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price took three trips aboard on military aircraft since May, bringing the total of his travel to American taxpayers to $1 million, according to news reports Thursday.
tom price, trips, costing, taxpayers, report
Thursday, 28 September 2017 08:55 PM
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