The controversy surrounding Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s use of private planes deepened Tuesday after Politico reported new details about his trips, including that his travels involved personal visits.
Those trips included a visit to a Georgia resort, where Price and his wife own property, more than a day ahead of his scheduled appearance at a conference, as well as a trip to Nashville, Tennessee, where he had lunch with his son.
Earlier Politico reports have documented more than two dozen trips taken by Price on charter flights since May, costing taxpayers more than $400,000. On the Nashville trip, for example, Price reportedly took a Learjet despite the availability of commercial flights from D.C., spending more than $17,000 on the round-trip airfare.
The latest revelations came two days after President Donald Trump said his administration is “looking into” Price’s travels and one day after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the use of charter planes wasn’t “White House-approved.” She added that the travel was approved under the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services.
That approval is now under review by the HHS inspector general, The Washington Post reported last week.
“The review focuses on whether the travel complied with federal travel regulations but may encompass other issues related to the travel,” HHS spokeswoman Tesia D. Williams said.
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Price said he would stop chartering planes for official travel until that review was complete.
“We’ve heard the criticism. We’ve heard the concerns, and we take that very seriously and have taken it to heart,” he said.
Price’s office previously defended the use of charter planes as necessary to ”[get] outside of D.C., making sure he is connected with the real American people.”
Price’s predecessor, Kathleen Sebelius, disagreed with that argument.
“I have no idea who came up with this notion and where it came from, and the notion you could spend $400,000 in what, 5 months, is stunning,” she told Bloomberg.