HHS Secretary Price vows to partly reimburse government for private flights

PHOTO: Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price attends an opioid roundtable discussion in Washington, Sept. 28, 2017.PlayCarolyn Kaster/AP
WATCH HHS secretary promises to reimburse the cost of his seat on pricey flights taken on taxpayers' dime

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price said Thursday that he regrets his numerous trips aboard private aircraft and pledged to reimburse the government for the cost of his seat, a promise that will only cover a fraction of the estimated costs, according to a source familiar with the plan.

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In a statement, Price said that he "regret[s] the concerns that [his official travel] has raised regarding the use of taxpayer dollars" and that he "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,” said Price.

The source with knowledge of Price's intentions said that the secretary will pay $51,887.31, about 13 percent of the $400,000 that Politico estimated was spent on as many as 26 chartered flights. Price confirmed that he would pay for his "portion" of the total cost in an interview with Fox News Thursday afternoon.

"All of my political career I've fought for the taxpayers," said Price in his statement. "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.

Price, along with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt are each currently the subject of inquiries by their respective inspectors general over flights and the House Oversight Committee this week launched an investigation into federal agency travel.

The statement from Price comes a day after Trump said he was "not happy" with the secretary about the trips and indicated that his future could be in jeopardy. Asked Wednesday if he could potentially fire Price, Trump said only, "We'll see."

In addition to covering the cost of his completed flights, Price's statement says that he and his staff "will continue to cooperate fully with the [Office of Inspector General] and internal review," and that he "will take no more private charter flights" during his term.