US health secretary quits over planes

US Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has resigned under pressure from President Donald Trump in an uproar over Price’s use of costly private charter planes for government business.


His abrupt departure was announced an hour after Trump told reporters he was disappointed in Price’s use of private aircraft and did not like the way it reflected on his administration.

“Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas Price offered his resignation earlier today and the president accepted,” the White House said in a statement.

“I’m not happy. OK? I’m not happy,” Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn.

Candidates to succeed Price include Seema Verma, who is administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and who is close to Vice President Mike Pence, and Scott Gottlieb, a physician who serves as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

Price’s resignation leaves Trump with a second Cabinet position to fill. He has yet to pick a secretary for homeland security after hiring former Secretary John Kelly as his White House chief of staff.

Price, a former congressman, was instrumental in the Trump administration’s policies aimed at undercutting Obamacare, as well as working with governors across the country to slowly begin unravelling parts of the law.

“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,” he said in a resignation letter.

Price promised on Thursday to repay the nearly $52,000 cost of his seats on private charter flights. “The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes,” Price said.

The White House issued an order late on Friday saying use of private planes required approval from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Washington news media outlet Politico has reported that Price had taken at least two dozen private charter flights since May at a cost to US taxpayers of more than $400,000.