Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price says he will reimburse the government for the cost associated with all his chartered flights and take no more of them while on the job.
“Today, I will write a personal check to the U.S. Treasury for the expenses of my travel on private charter planes. The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes,” Price said in a statement on Thursday, in response to controversy over reports published in recent weeks about his lavish travels.
By referring to costs associated with “my travel” and “my seat,” however, Price suggested he may not reimburse taxpayers for the total cost of all the flights, which includes charges for fuel, taxes and additional fees.
According to a series of reports by Politico, Price has taken at least two dozen trips on private planes since May, costing taxpayers more than $400,000. Those trips are now under investigation by the HHS inspector general.
Politico reported later Thursday that Price also used military planes during trips to Europe, Asia and Africa earlier this year, costing taxpayers more than $500,000. According to the report, Price’s wife traveled with the secretary on the military aircraft while other people in his delegation flew commercial.
President Donald Trump said Wednesday he is “not happy” about Price’s travel, and is looking into the controversy. The president also left open the possibility of firing Price, telling reporters “we’ll see” whether he remains at HHS.
Asked about the president’s comments at an event promoting flu vaccinations on Thursday, Price said he believed “we’ve still got the confidence of the president.”
In his statement on reimbursing the government for his flights, Price also said he regretted the way in which he had misused taxpayer dollars.
“It is clear to me that in this case, I was not sensitive enough to my concern for the taxpayer. 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,” he said.
This article has been updated with information on the cost of flights on military aircraft.