US health secretary Tom Price quits over private plane scandal
Tom Price, Donald Trump's Health and Human Services Secretary, resigned on Friday amid growing uproar over his use of expensive private planes for official purposes. Price's travels have reportedly cost over $1 million of taxpayers' money. American government officials are supposed to take commercial flights for official travel. Deputy assistant health secretary Don J Wright has now been appointed as the acting health secretary.
In his resignation letter addressed to Trump, Price wrote, "I have spent forty years both as a doctor and public servant putting people first. I regret that the recent events have created a distraction from these important objectives." Deeming the success of key issues more important than any one person, he said he was quitting so that Trump could "move without further disruption."
Price's resignation comes as no surprise. In July, Trump had said that he'd fire him if Republican healthcare plan didn't get through Congress soon. Trump wasn't pleased with Price's exorbitant spending either, a stark contrast to his campaign promise of cutting down wasteful spending. Hours before Price's resignation, Trump reportedly said, "He's a fine man. We're going to make a decision sometime tonight."
The 62-year-old health secretary has promised to repay the American government $52,000 to cover the cost of his seat on chartered jet trips. "The taxpayers won't pay a dime for my seat on those planes," he said. Sworn in February 2017 as the health agency's chief, Price was previously embroiled in a controversy for his alleged involvement in trading of stock in health-care companies.
Among several probable candidates, Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, are most likely to succeed Price as America's new health secretary.
With Price's resignation, it's now known that indulging in extravagances is a fireable offense. Three other cabinet members are under scanner for using private planes for official work. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin allegedly took a jet plane with his wife to see last month's solar eclipse. The other two on the list are Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt and interior secretary Ryan Zinke.