President Donald Trump's Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, is facing intense criticism due to the revelation that he used private jets on at least five occasions for official business, adding tens of thousands of dollars in expenses for American taxpayers in the process.
Price took five flights between Sept. 13 and Sept. 15 to Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania for various health care-related events, according to Politico. His predecessors under President Barack Obama, Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, used commercial jets when flying within the continental United States.
An HHS spokesperson defended the use of the private jets to Politico, stating that "when commercial aircraft cannot reasonably accommodate travel requirements, charter aircraft can be used for official travel."
On one occasion, Price took a charter flight from the Washington-area Dulles International Airport to Philadelphia International Airport, costing taxpayers roughly $25,000. A flight on United Airlines was leaving at roughly the same time and would have cost only $447 to $725 per person, Politico noted. There were also four Amtrak trains that Price could have taken, which would have gotten him to Philadelphia on time; the cheapest train could cost $72 in advance. And, of course, he could have driven the 125-mile trip, taking about 2 1/2 hours, according to Politico.
In the past, Price has denounced other government officials for spending too much on airfare. During an appearance on CNBC in 2009, Price harshly criticized the use of private jets by members of Congress as "another example of fiscal irresponsibility run amok" and claimed that "what we need to be doing is cutting it [the use of private jets by Congress] to zero."
Price isn't alone among Trump cabinet members dealing with transportation-related controversies. Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin has been accused by an ethics watchdog group of taking a government jet to watch the solar eclipse with his new wife, F-movie actress Louise Linton, and was heavily criticized for requesting the use of a government jet for their honeymoon.