Top Dem asks watchdog to look into Price private jet travel

Top Dem asks watchdog to look into Price private jet travel
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A top House Democrat is asking the inspector general of Health and Human Services (HHS) to look into a report that the head of the department took private jets to travel for official business.  

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Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, released a statement Wednesday saying he would ask the HHS inspector general for a "full accounting" of Secretary Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceHHS nominee Azar made millions working for drugmaker Lilly Government travel paid for by taxpayers must be accountable Overnight Health Care: Mandate repeal sparks fears of premium hikes | HHS nominee to get Senate hearing this month | Trump officials eye work requirements for Medicaid recipients MORE's travel. 

Pallone Jr. and four other lawmakers sent a letter to the HHS on Wednesday requesting such an investigation of Price. 

The move comes after Politico on Tuesday night reported that Price last week took private jets on five flights for official business. HHS declined to say who paid for the flights, which cost thousands of dollars more than commercial flights. 

"I would remind Secretary Price that taxpayer funds are not meant to be used as a jet-setting slush fund," Pallone said in a statement. "There is no reason to be regularly chartering private flights at the taxpayers’ expense between commercially serviced routes such Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia. 

"My colleagues and I will be looking into this further and we will be asking the HHS Office of the Inspector General for a full accounting of Secretary Price’s travel," he added. 

In a statement, Charmaine Yoest, an HHS spokeswoman, defended Price's travel. 
 
“Within an incredibly demanding schedule full of 13+ hour days, every effort is being made to maximize Secretary Price’s ability to travel outside Washington to meet with the American people and carry out HHS’s missions," she said in a statement. "Secretary Price is currently managing public health and human services recovery and preparation efforts for three major hurricanes."
 
She added that the travel department checks for multiple options but "commercial travel is not always feasible."