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 WarrenPoll: Sanders leads Biden by 9 points in Iowa Poll: Biden leads in Iowa ahead of caucuses The Memo: Impeachment dominates final Iowa sprint MORE (D-Mass.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTax season could bring more refund confusion Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Wyden asks NSA to investigate White House cybersecurity | Commerce withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon objects | Warren calls on Brazil to drop Greenwald charges Wyden vows push to force release of Khashoggi assessment MORE (D-Ore.), and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: Trump becomes first sitting president to attend March for Life | Officials confirm second US case of coronavirus | Trump officials threaten California funding over abortion law Top health officials brief senators on coronavirus as infections spread Administration to give Senate briefing on coronavirus 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.