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 PriceRep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman Doctors push Trump to quickly reopen country in letter organized by conservatives Coronavirus in Congress: Lawmakers who have tested positive MORE.

In a letter to the agency on Thursday,  Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSusan Rice sees stock rise in Biden VP race The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden chips away at Trump's fundraising advantage Warnock raises almost M in Georgia Senate race in second quarter MORE (D-Mass.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCongress gears up for battle over expiring unemployment benefits Hillicon Valley: Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse | Trump administration awards tech group contract to build 'virtual' wall | Advocacy groups urge Congress to ban facial recognition technologies Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse MORE (D-Ore.), and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayLobbying battle brewing over access to COVID-19 vaccine Trump officials seek to reassure public about safety of a potential coronavirus vaccine Overnight Health Care: Trump refuses to say if he slowed down coronavirus testing | US COVID-19 cases rise, marking ugly contrast with Europe | Trump health officials to testify on continued dangers of coronavirus pandemic 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 IsaksonWarnock raises almost M in Georgia Senate race in second quarter Doug Collins leads Kelly Loeffler by 2 points in Georgia Senate race 'The Senate could certainly use a pastor': Georgia Democrat seeks to seize 'moral moment' MORE (R) who is retiring at the end of the year.  

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