Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has resigned amid an outcry over his controversial use of private jet travel.
President Trump has accepted the resignation and appointed Don Wright of Virginia to serve as acting secretary, effective at 11:59 p.m. Friday. Wright serves as the deputy assistant Secretary for Health and Director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Price said in his resignation letter that he spent 40 years as a doctor and public servant "putting people first. I regret that the recent events have created a distraction from these important objectives," adding that he would resign to allow Trump to "move forward without further disruption."
Price stirred up public and congressional outrage by using close to $1 million in taxpayer money to pay for travel on private jets. Although the former Georgia congressman has apologized and pledged to reimburse the government for his share of the travel — which totals roughly $52,000 — Trump fumed this week about the bad headlines Price generated for the administration.
Trump told reporters that the $52,000 reimbursement wasn't enough before the White House announced Price's resignation.
"He's a very fine man. I certainly don't like the optics. I'm not happy, I can tell you that. I'm not happy," Trump told reporters Friday afternoon as he traveled to Bedminster, N.J., for the weekend.
The move comes a little more than one month until the open enrollment of Obamacare on Nov. 1.
Price is the first Trump administration Cabinet member to resign.
But he is not the only Cabinet official whose travel on private jets has caught the media's attention. However, his reliance on the lavish form of transportation appears to have been the most widespread, and other administration officials — such as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — reimbursed taxpayers for their use of charter flights before the media exposed it.
Price's resignation brings an end to his brief tenure leading HHS.
A former orthopedic surgeon, he was confirmed in February after a bruising confirmation process that saw scrutiny over whether his stock deals influenced his positions on healthcare issues while in the House.
Price was nominated by the Trump administration because of his fervent opposition to Obamacare. He had proposed several repeal bills while in the House and was seen as the point person in the administration's regulatory efforts to dismantle the law.
Trump's options to replace Price at the helm of HHS include Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, who previously worked with Vice President Mike Pence to set up Indiana's Medicaid program.
The man immediately replacing Price, Don Wright, is an HHS veteran who has served as the director of the department's Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion since 2012.
Prior to coming to HHS, Wright worked at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, where he helped organize conferences on emergency preparedness.
Or Trump could turn again to Congress to find an HHS chief.
Price's resignation comes the same week that the Senate's latest attempt to repeal Obamacare collapsed. Congressional Republicans are now moving on to tax reformm and Obamacare repeal has been postponed until 2018 at the earliest.
After the Senate failure, Price would have been tasked with running a law that he has opposed since it was signed into law in 2010 and not with dismantling it like he had hoped.
HHS has withstood criticism from Democrats and Obamacare advocacy groups that it is sabotaging the upcoming open enrollment. Congressional Democrats sent a letter to Price on Friday outraged that the department is banning regional office staffers from attending local Obamacare outreach events.
The move comes after HHS slashed Obamacare's ad budget by 90 percent to $10 million for 2018, from $100 million for 2017. It also cut funding by nearly 40 percent to outreach groups called "navigators" because the agency believed they were getting paid too much because they did not sign up enough people.