After embarrassing reports of bilking taxpayers to fund his luxury vacations led to rumors of his firing, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced to bow out on his own.
Well, that escalated quickly.
After about a week of stories piling up about his use of taxpayer funds for luxury travel, and growing calls for his firing, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced to resign in disgrace Friday afternoon.
The initial statement from the White House was pointedly brief and terse:
Tom Price has resigned. pic.twitter.com/ZrfY2Qg3QN
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) September 29, 2017
Price’s use of taxpayer money to foot the bill for his travel expenses grew rapidly into a full-blown scandal.
First, it was reports of about $60,000 used for private jets — a practice Price himself once called “fiscal irresponsibility run amok,” but which he later tried to claim was a way for him to connect to “real American people.”
Then the price tag shot up to $400,000, for which Price offered up a measly $52,000, claiming he only needed to pay for his own seats on the planes.
And almost immediately after that number was reported, we learned the actual total was more like $1 million.
That’s a whole lot of connecting with real Americans, right there!
The calls for Price’s resignation or firing were growing increasingly hard to ignore, even for Donald Trump, who began hinting Friday afternoon about letting Price go.
The Hill reported that Trump complained Price was becoming a “distraction” and that he would be making a decision on Price’s future in the Cabinet soon.
Apparently, those not-so-vague threats were enough to finally get Price to see the writing on the wall, and he was forced into an embarrassing resignation instead. Considering how much money the GOP dumped into the race to fill his vacated Senate seat, one wonders if seven and a half months on the Cabinet job is enough of a return on investment.
And Price was not alone in the “let working Americans pay for my fancy planes” scandal: EPA head Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, have also felt free to bilk taxpayers in this way.
Hardly surprising, when they have a role model like Trump, pretty much the last name anyone would think of regarding fiscal responsibility or adherence to ethical norms.
As Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) noted in a statement, Price’s resignation doesn’t “address the fact that this is a result of the tone set by the President when he decided to maintain his massive global business despite the significant conflicts of interest it causes every day and to spend many days at his own properties at great cost to taxpayers.”
Indeed, Price’s resignation is a necessary step, but it only the first one. There is a lot more housecleaning needed in Washington.