Trump accepts Tom Price’s resignation
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price resigned on Friday, after an uproar over his use of private jets for official business.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that Price offered his resignation to President Trump on Friday, and that Trump had accepted.
He is the first official to resign from Trump’s Cabinet.
“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,” Price said in his resignation letter.
“Success on these issues is more important than any one person. In order for you to move forward without further disruption, I am officially tendering my resignation,” he continued.
Don Wright, HHS’s acting assistant secretary for health, will serve as acting secretary effective Saturday.
Price’s position appeared to be at risk in recent days after Trump made several remarks about being disappointed in his conduct.
Asked by reporters Friday afternoon if Price had offered to resign, Trump replied: “No, but we’ll see what happens later on.”
It’s a stunning downfall for Price, a former congressman from Georgia who was supposed to help bridge the gap between Congress and the administration as Republicans worked to repeal ObamaCare.
Instead, that repeal effort ended in failure this week, and Price is out of office after less than 10 months on the job.
Price tried to save his job after Politico reported this week that his use of military flights and private jets has cost more than $1 million since May.
Seeking to contain the damage, Price apologized on Thursday and said he would pay for “his seat” on the flights, which comes to about $52,000.
But that did little to quell the uproar. Price’s travel seemed to undermine Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” in in Washington, and the controversy was getting heavy play on cable news networks.
The president earlier on Friday said he didn’t like the “optics” and was “not happy” with Price.
The controversy over his flights has become a major headache for the White House.
Other administrative officials, including Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, have also faced criticism in recent days for using private planes for travel.
Price is now being investigated by HHS’s inspector general and the House Oversight Committee.
The resignation sets up a huge confirmation fight in the Senate for Price’s replacement.
Democrats have accused the administration of trying to sabotage ObamaCare, and whoever is nominated to replace Price will likely face questions about how they would manage the law.
Following the resignation, Democrats including Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Ron Wyden, (D-Ore.) seized the moment to argue Trump’s next secretary pick should implement current health care law rather than seek to change it.
“I hope that his resignation will mark the beginning of a new chapter for the Trump administration’s health care agenda,” said Wyden, the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, which confirmed Price as secretary.
HHS could be without a secretary for ObamaCare’s next open enrollment season, which begins Nov. 1, if a nominee isn’t confirmed quickly.
– This story was updated at 5:20 p.m.