Pablo Martinez Monsivais | AP
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, left, receives a flu vaccination from Sharon Walsh-Bonadies, RN., right, during a news conference recommending everyone age six months an older be vaccinated against influenza each year, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017 in Washington.
Embattled Trump administration health affairs chief Tom Price said Thursday he will reimburse the government for the cost of “my seat” on more than two dozen pricey private jet trips he took on the taxpayers’ time — and vowed that he no longer will use such charter flights in the future.
“I will take no more private charter flights as Secretary of HHS [the U.S. Health and Human Services Department]. No exceptions,” Price said in an email release.
“Today, I will write a personal check to the US Treasury for the expenses of my travel on private charter planes,” wrote Price.
“The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes.”
CNBC has asked HHS’s press office what Price expects to pay for his “seat” on those planes — and what the difference is between that amount and the total cost of the charter flights.
However, multiple press outlets reported that Price will pay $51,887 for his flights.
The White House declined to comment on Price’s announcement.
The announcement came a day after President Donald Trump said he was displeasedwith his health chief’s expensive habit of using private planes instead of commercial flights, as is traditional for cabinet secretaries.
Trump ominously said, “We’ll see,” when asked if he would fire Price, a medical doctor and ex-congressman who long railed against excessive spending by the federal government.
“I’m looking at that very closely. I am not happy with him,” Trump said.
Price earlier Thursday said told reporters, “I think we’ve still got the confidence of the president.”
BuzzFeed News reported Thursday that Price in the first two months of this year asked a White House official to tell Trump that he wanted to re-open HHS’s executive dining room, which had been closed since George W. Bush was president.
In his statement Thursday, Price wrote that he welcomes and is “cooperating fully with the Office of Inspector General (OIG) review of processes and procedures related to my official travel as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
“I have also taken the additional step of initiating a departmental review to determine if any changes or reforms are necessary. As I have previously stated, all of this travel was approved by legal and HHS officials,” Price said.
“Despite this, I regret the concerns this has raised regarding the use of taxpayer dollars,” Price said.
“All of my political career I’ve fought for the taxpayers. 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 also said that, “I have spent forty years both as a doctor and in public service putting people first.”
“It has been my personal honor to serve the American people, and I look forward to continuing that service.”
Price on Thursday morning attended a press conference in Washington, DC, to promote flu vaccinations. He left that event without taking questions from reporters inside the National Press Club for the conference.
Additional reporting by Christina Wilkie