Senate Democrats demand answers on payment for Tom Price's charter flights

Senate Democrats demand answers on payment for Tom Price's charter flights
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Senate Democrats want to know why the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has not recovered any of the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on improper charter flight travel by the agency’s former secretary, Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceThe most expensive congressional races of the last decade Isakson talks up bipartisanship in Senate farewell speech Hundreds apply to fill Isakson's Senate seat in Georgia MORE.

In a letter to the agency on Thursday,  Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenNYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for president Trump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Biden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina MORE (D-Mass.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Lawmakers call for FTC probe into top financial data aggregator Overnight Health Care: Progressives raise red flags over health insurer donations | Republican FTC commish backs Medicare negotiating drug prices | Trump moves to protect money for religious groups MORE (D-Ore.), and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayConservative groups aim to sink bipartisan fix to 'surprise' medical bills Democrats request briefing on intel behind Trump's embassy threat claim Democrats ask if US citizens were detained at border checkpoints due to Iranian national origin MORE (D-Wash.) demanded answers as to why HHS has not followed through on numerous recommendations from the agency’s inspector general to recoup the money, and to implement changes to ensure there is no more wasteful spending.

The letter comes more than a year after the Office of Inspector General (OIG) recommended HHS recover at least $341,000 of misused federal funds and take steps to ensure the abuse of taxpayer money does not occur again. 

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“But the OIG has told our offices that 14 months after the recommendations were issued, HHS has not provided proof of any demonstrable progress toward resolving them, and that all seven recommendations remain outstanding,” the lawmakers wrote to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

The report found that Price violated federal regulations and “improperly used federal funds” in 20 of 21 trips reviewed by the agency watchdog. In total, the flights cost taxpayers $1.2 million, and Price was forced to resign after less than 10 months on the job.

At the time of the report in 2018, HHS said it was reviewing the legal basis for recouping the funds spent by Price. 

An HHS spokesperson said the agency has asked the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel to review the legal basis for recoupment. The spokesperson did not say when the request was made, or when a response is expected.

Price, an orthopedic surgeon, was a longtime congressman from Georgia before he was elevated to the position of HHS secretary. He has applied to be the replacement for current Georgia Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonOvernight Health Care: New drug price hikes set stage for 2020 fight | Conservative group to spend M attacking Pelosi drug plan | Study finds Medicaid expansion improved health in Southern states New Georgia senator takes spot on health committee Loeffler sworn in to Georgia seat MORE (R) who is retiring at the end of the year.  

— This report was updated at 11:57 a.m.