Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price resigned on Friday afternoon amid a growing controversy over his use of private charter flights for official business.
In his resignation letter, Price expressed his “regret that recent events have created a distraction” from the work of the Department, including reforming the health care system.
Price offered his resignation in order to allow the Trump administration “to move forward without further disruption.”
The White House press secretary released a statement saying Price offered his resignation early in the day and President Donald Trump accepted.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Don J. Wright of Virginia will serve as Acting Secretary effective one minute before midnight on Friday, the White House said.
Earlier on Friday afternoon, Trump said he would have an announcement on the fate of his HHS secretary later in the day. Trump indicated he was “not happy” with the scandal that emerged over Price’s use of taxpayer dollars for travel on private planes.
According to an HHS spokesperson, the cost of Price’s seats on those planes was $51,887.31.
Politico first reported on Price’s travel and documented some 26 flights Price took on corporate jets since May.
The Price controversy has also triggered a full review of other Trump officials’ travel by the House Government Oversight Committee. The committee will be looking into whether officials chartered planes at the U.S. taxpayers’ expense when cheaper, commercial flight options were available.
Following Price’s resignation, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney circulated a memo informing cabinet secretaries and agency heads that Chief of Staff John Kelly will be in charge of signing off on official travel requests for government-owned, rented, leased or chartered aircraft.
During his seven-month tenure in office, Price oversaw the failed effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, a core promise Trump made during his presidency. During a July speech before the Boy Scouts of America, Trump seemed to joke that he would fire Price if he was unable to deliver on a health care bill.
Earlier this week, Republican lawmakers abandoned the effort to reform health care before the start of the 2018 fiscal year.
A number of Democrats seized on the announcement to repeat their criticism of the Trump administration’s handling of the health care fight.
“It’s time for this Administration to work with Democrats to improve and update the Affordable Care Act,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a press release.
Members of the Trump administration remained supportive of Price up until his resignation.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams told Sinclair Broadcast Group on Friday that he was “proud” of the way HHS responded to the recent hurricane crises. “We’ve received nothing but unprecedented support from the president and from the secretary,” he said.