Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price. Photo: Chris Smith / Department of Health and Human Services

President Trump upset with Secretary of Health and Human Services over private flights

President Donald Trump is reportedly upset with the official who oversees the Indian Health Service.

Secretary Tom Price of the Department of Health and Human Services has been the focus of negative media coverage over his frequent use of private planes. Although he has suspended the practice pending an internal review, Trump told reporters he isn't happy with the situation.

“I was looking into it, and I will look into it. And I will tell you personally, I’m not happy about it,” Trump said, POLITICO reported. “I am not happy about it. I’m going to look at it. I am not happy about it, and I let him know it.”

Trump isn't the only one concerned. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform asked the Trump administration on Wednesday for records of travel by "any senior official" on private, as well as government, planes, since January 20.

“Under 5 U.S.C. § 5733, official travel on the part of federal employees must be ‘by the most expeditious means of transportation practicable’ and ‘commensurate with the nature and purpose of the [employee’s] duties,’ and by no means should include personal use,“ a letter signed by the Republican chairman and Democratic ranking member of the committee reads.

POLITICO has extensively reported on Price's flights, which have cost more than $400,000 since May. Before he was grounded, he took a private plane last week for a series of tribal meetings in Oklahoma and aides explored the use of a private plane to take him between the Pawnee Nation and the Cherokee Nation even though it only takes 2 hours by car to make the journey.

While in Tahlequah, the headquarters of the Cherokee Nation, Price addressed the Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee for its first-ever meeting in Indian Country. He acknowledged the "substandard care" at the IHS but did not outright commit to seeking more funding for the beleaguered agency.

"So how are we going to make sure every American Indian and Alaska Native patient receives the very best care possible?" Price, a physician and former member of Congress form Georgia, told tribal leaders, according to a transcript of his prepared remarks. "In part, by forging better, more accountable and productive relationships between your governments and ours."

To put the cost of Price's flights in perspective, the average amount of a grant from the Special Diabetes Program for Indians is $452,076, according to a budget justification document. Despite the program's success in preventing and treating diabetes, Congress has failed to renew it for an extended period amid concerns about costs.

Read More on the Story:
Price says he still has Trump's support (POLITICO September 28, 2017)
Job in jeopardy, top US health official keeps to schedule (The Associated Press September 28, 2017)
Trump fuming over Price's charter flights (POLITICO September 28, 2017)
Trump: ‘Not happy’ about HHS Secretary Tom Price’s taxpayer-funded travel on private jets (The Washington Post September 28, 2017)
Tom Price’s Spending Habits Catch Trump’s Attention: ‘I’m Not Happy About It’ (The New York Times September 27, 2017)
Trump unhappy with top health official over travel (The Associated Press September 27, 2017)

An Opinion:
Editorial: Tom Price should pay taxpayers back (The Washington Post September 27, 2017)

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