Tom Price has resigned from his post as U.S. health and human services secretary after days of fending off criticism over chartered flights he took on the public dime.
The announcement today out of the White House said Don J. Wright – presently assistant secretary for health and director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion – will take over as acting secretary.
The announcement came soon after President Donald Trump, at his Bedminster, N.J. gold course, told reporters that he didn’t like the “optics” around the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent on Price’s flights – and that he was “not happy,” according to media reports in the Washington Post, Associated Press and elsewhere. Trump had publicly expressed similar unhappiness earlier this week.
Price yesterday tried to defuse the scandal by offering to personally pay for the cost of his seat on the planes. The distances of some flights had been as short at Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia.
“All of my political career I’ve fought for the taxpayers,” Price said in an HHS news release. “It is clear to me that in this case, I was not sensitive enough to my concern for the taxpayer.”
Price’s statement was apparently not enough. His departure throws another wrench into Trump and congressional Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Price – a longtime ACA critic when he was a U.S. representative from Georgia – had been a point person for rolling back executive branch efforts to promote Obamacare while his former GOP colleagues in Congress tried to kill and replace the program for good. The future of both efforts is now unclear.