Health and Human Services secretary Price resigns

Health and Human Services secretary Price resigns

Tom Price was under scrutiny for chartering private jets at taxpayer expense. (Source: Pool via CNN) Tom Price was under scrutiny for chartering private jets at taxpayer expense. (Source: Pool via CNN)

(RNN) - Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price has resigned, according to the White House.

The office of the press secretary released a statement Friday afternoon saying Price has offered his resignation and President Donald Trump had accepted.

The announcement came less than an hour after Trump said he would "make a decision" on Price later Friday, echoing previous incidents when White House staffers were dismissed.

Price was under intense scrutiny for the high costs of private jets he chartered at taxpayer expense. He indicated he would pay back a portion of the money, but that decision was criticized because he offered to pay approximately $52,000 of the estimated $1 million the flights cost.

Several reports have indicated Trump was upset with the expense and in a brief conversation with reporters outside the White House said it was not a good look because of his administration's goal of cutting expenses through negotiating trade deals. Trump called Price a good man, but reports have said he expressed doubts about Price due to the Obamacare repeal failure - the president does not think Price sold the plan well - and that the private plane expenses had angered the president.

When Republicans in Congress were working to repeal Obamacare in May, Price used military planes to fly overseas for a trip to Africa and Europe.

Price’s travel controversy was enough for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to launch a travel investigation into all federal agencies and the White House, the Associated Press reports.

In Price's absence, the role will be filled by deputy assistant secretary Don Wright, who also heads the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Price is the merely latest in a series of high-profile departures from the White House staff.

Since taking office in January, nine high-ranking White House staffers have left the administration, most of whom were either fired or it was reported they left at Trump's request.

Additionally, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has also been reported to have run afoul of Trump, at one point even offering a resignation that Trump ultimately declined.

During Price's confirmation process in the Senate, where he was confirmed by a 52-47 vote, Democrats raised questions on Price's financial portfolio, including the purchase of stocks of an Australian biotech company at a reduced price. He also pushed legislation while a member of the House of Representatives that would have helped a medical implant company he had recently purchased stock in. 

Price denied any wrongdoing, claiming purchases were made by his stockbroker without his knowledge.

Prior to joining the Trump administration, Price served six terms as a representative from Georgia and was chair of the House Budget Committee. He was a harsh critic of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, claiming that the law interferes with the ability of patients and doctors to make medical decisions.

Republicans have tried multiple times to repeal the legislation and make good on years of campaign promises, but have not been able to reach the votes needed in the Senate. Trump has called for the ACA's repeal and targeted senators with criticism for not voting to repeal it.

Price introduced detailed replacement plans as alternatives to Obamacare beginning in 2009 when work on the health legislation began. His 2015 plan featured tax credits, health savings accounts, and high-risk pools, and it gives insurance companies more freedom to charge more to older Americans, women who may become pregnant and for pre-existing conditions.

It would also have privatized Medicare, giving its clients subsidies to buy insurance, and turning Medicaid into a block grant program for states. That program has been considered by Republicans but hasn't gained the support needed. The vote has hinged particularly on the objections of Rand Paul (R-KY), John McCain (R-AZ), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Republicans hold a 52-48 majority and no Democrats have supported any of the repeal proposals.

Copyright 2017 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved. 

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