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 PriceIsakson talks up bipartisanship in Senate farewell speech Hundreds apply to fill Isakson's Senate seat in Georgia Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Warren faces tough choices on 'Medicare for All' funding | Dems demand answers on Tom Price's charter flights | Medicaid expansion nears 2020 ballot in Oklahoma MORE.

In a letter to the agency on Thursday,  Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenArtist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 Democratic strategist: 'Medicare for All' exposes generational gap within party Yang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations MORE (D-Mass.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills Congressional leaders unite to fight for better future for America's children and families McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug bill MORE (D-Ore.), and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills Key negotiator says deal close on surprise medical bills legislation Senate passes bipartisan bill to permanently fund historically black colleges 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 IsaksonThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Job growth soars in November The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats worry about diversity on next debate stage Doug Collins on potential 2020 Senate run: I'm not 'ruling it out' MORE (R) who is retiring at the end of the year.  

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