Political News

The Latest: John Kelly given authority over Cabinet travel

Posted September 29

— The Latest on Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's resignation from the Trump Cabinet (all times local):

7:45 p.m.

The White House is giving chief of staff John Kelly authority to sign off on government travel on government-owned, rented, leased or chartered aircraft.

The change comes after Tom Price resigned Friday as President Donald Trump's health secretary over his costly travel.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney has issued the new guidance, reminding the heads of executive branch departments and agencies that they are public servants and that every penny they spend comes from taxpayers.

Mulvaney tells Cabinet secretaries and department heads to consider whether commercial travel would be a more appropriate use of public funds even when the guidelines allow for the use of government-owned or chartered aircraft.

Mulvaney says that just because something is legal doesn't make it right.

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5:55 p.m.

The resignation of Tom Price as secretary of Health and Human Services is drawing partisan responses from Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

Price resigned Friday amid investigations into his costly travel on charter flights.

The Republican House speaker, Paul Ryan, is praising Price, saying that the former Georgia congressman and House Budget Committee chairman is a "good man."

The top House Democrat, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, says Price should never have become health secretary because the country needs someone in the job "who believes in health care for all Americans."

Pelosi says President Donald Trump should pick a replacement who will stop the administration's sabotage of health care programs.

Price has been a top Democratic target because he's been a point man in Trump administration efforts to scrap and undermine "Obamacare."

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5:35 p.m.

The resignation of Tom Price as secretary of Health and Human Services is drawing partisan responses from lawmakers.

Price resigned Friday amid investigations into his costly travel on charter flights.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is praising Price, saying in a statement that the former Georgia congressman and House Budget Committee chairman is a "good man."

On the Democratic side, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state says Price was always unacceptable for the job because of his "ideologically driven" views on health care, especially women's health. Murray says the Trump administration lets top officials "put themselves and partisan politics ahead of families."

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden says Price "betrayed the agency's mission to improve Americans' health care." He says Price's replacement must implement federal health care laws and work to reduce prescription drug prices.

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Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price says he regrets that the controversy over his travel created a distraction for the Trump administration and its health overhaul agenda.

Price writes in his resignation letter to President Donald Trump: "I have spent 40 years both as a doctor and public servant putting people first."

He adds: "I regret that the recent events have created a distraction from these important objectives."

Price says he will continue to support Trump's priorities.

His resignation takes effect at 11:59 p.m. on Friday.

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5:20 p.m.

The secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, has resigned amid investigations of his costly travel on charter flights.

Price is the first member of President Donald Trump's Cabinet to be pushed out.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is praising Price, saying in a statement that the former Georgia congressman and House Budget Committee chairman is a "good man."

Ryan says Price was a "leader in the House and a superb health secretary," and he credits Price for helping the House pass a health care bill earlier this year. That measure went nowhere in the Senate.

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5:15 p.m.

The Senate's top Democrat is using the resignation of health secretary Tom Price to say the agency should stop undermining the Affordable Care Act.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says the Health and Human Services Department is supposed to "support Americans' health care, not take it away."

The New Yorker and other Democrats have criticized the administration for cutting federal efforts to help people sign up for coverage under President Barack Obama's 2010 law. Trump wants to repeal that law, and his administration has cut spending for advertising and assisting groups that sign up consumers.

Schumer says the health agency should follow the law "instead of trying to sabotage it."

Price resigned Friday following revelations he repeatedly used expensive charter flights instead of less-costly travel on airlines.

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4:40 p.m.

President Donald Trump's health secretary has resigned, after his travel on costly charter flights triggered investigations and angered his boss.

Tom Price's partial repayment and public regrets couldn't save his job.

The Health and Human Services secretary became the first member of the president's Cabinet to leave office in a turbulent young administration that has seen several high-ranking White House aides ousted. Price served less than 8 months.

Trump had said he was "not happy" with Price for hiring private charters on the taxpayer's dime for official travel, when cheaper commercial flights would have worked.

The flap over Price has overshadowed Trump's agenda and prompted scrutiny of other Cabinet members' travel. The House Oversight and Government Reform committee has launched a broad investigation of top political appointees.

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3:40 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he'll soon have a decision on the fate of his embattled health secretary — maybe as early as today.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has been dogged by criticism over a pattern of booking costly charter flights for official travel.

The president says he will be "announcing something in the pretty near future." Trump says Price has not offered to resign.

Price is a "good man," Trump added, but he's "not happy" over the travel flap.

"I don't like the optics," he told reporters as he left the White House for the weekend.

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2:35 p.m.

The Environmental Protection Agency says four flights on noncommercial aircraft taken by Administrator Scott Pruitt were preapproved by ethics lawyers.

Documents show Pruitt and his staff chartered a private plane for an Aug. 4 trip from Denver to Durango, Colorado, to visit the Gold King Mine, site of a spill last year. The administrator also took three flights on government-owned planes to New York, North Dakota and a roundtrip between airports in Pruitt's native Oklahoma.

Letters released by EPA show the flights cost a total of $58,000 and were approved by the agency's general counsel's office.

EPA's inspector general opened an inquiry last month into Pruitt's frequent taxpayer-funded travel on commercial planes. The Associated Press reported earlier this year that Pruitt often spends weekends at his Tulsa home.

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12:20 p.m.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says he's taken three charter flights since March, including a late-night trip costing more than $12,000 from Las Vegas to his home state of Montana in June.

Zinke says no commercial flight was available at the time he planned to speak to Western governors.

Zinke said Friday he also traveled by private plane in Alaska in May and the U.S. Virgin Islands in March. Zinke wants to expand energy prodcution in Alaska, while the Interior Department oversees the three U.S. Virgin Islands.

Zinke says he also went on a military flight with the agriculture secretary to see wildfires in Montana. Zinke says his travel was approved in advance by Interior's ethics officials.

He says he works to "make sure I am above the law and I follow the law."

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12:01 p.m.

The secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs says information about his official travel will be posted on the department's website.

Secretary David Shulkin says he has not used private aircraft for official business, but has taken six trips on military aircraft.

The trip details will include the type of aircraft, members of the traveling party and information about the events he was attending.

His decision to post his travel information comes as Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price finds his job in jeopardy over his use of costly charters. Price has said he would reimburse the U.S. Treasury nearly $52,000 for the cost of his seat on the charter flights. He has not addressed the overall cost of the flights, which are estimated to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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11:50 a.m.:

AP sources say President Donald Trump has been telling associates that health secretary Tom Price has become a distraction, undermining his "Drain the Swamp" campaign promise.

Price is engulfed in a controversy about his use of costly charter planes on government business. His public regrets and partial repayment don't seem to have calmed the furor.

Two people familiar with Trump's private discussions — but not authorized to speak publicly— told The Associated Press the president is deeply frustrated.

Trump has told people close to him that he believes Price's run of bad headlines has stepped on the launch of his tax overhaul plan.

—By Jonathan Lemire in New York.

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3:40 a.m.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price says he's paying out of his own pocket nearly $52,000 to cover the cost of his travel on charter flights taken for government business.

Price is promising to fly commercial from now on, a pledge that comes with his job on the line amid criticism from President Donald Trump and others questioning why he hasn't used cheaper public flights.

Price also is expressing regret for raising concerns about his handling of taxpayer dollars. But he hasn't addressed the matter of the cost for others who flew with him, an added expense that could amount to several hundred thousand dollars.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has launched a wide-ranging investigation into travel by Price as well as other Trump political appointees.

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