Before resigning last Friday, former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price pledged to partially pay back the cost of his travel on private charter flights while in office. But now that he's outside the administration, will Price follow through?
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., isn't letting him off the hook. In a letter sent to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Tuesday, the senator asked for confirmation that Price actually reimbursed the government for his travel and to what amount. If not, Murray asked Mnuchin to confirm by what date the Treasury expects to receive his payment.
Murray, who cited Price's careful promise to pay back only the cost of "his seats" on the private charter flights, also asked whether HHS provided any explanation as to how the secretary arrived at the $51,887.31 amount. She also asked whether HHS or the Treasury have conducted assessments to confirm the accuracy of that number.
"Price's plans to reimburse taxpayers for only a fraction of the costs incurred for his private and military travel is entirely inadequate," Murray wrote in the letter, first reported by The Hill.
She's exactly correct.
Though the total cost of Price's decision to charter so many private flights is small in the scheme of the massive federal budget, that he's trying to get away with only repaying a fraction of that cost is insulting, especially from a man whose record suggests he's taken advantage of his government positions to enrich himself in the past.
Though he resigned, Murray is right to apply pressure on Price and she's right to probe how HHS landed on the $52,000 number as well.
"While Price may no longer be Secretary of HHS, he still has the responsibility to follow through on his commitment to repay the American public," Murray observed in the letter. "Anything less is a clear indication that Price was not in fact sorry for his abuse of taxpayer dollars, but was just sorry that he was caught."
Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.