U.S. Health Secretary Tom Price quit under pressure from President Donald Trump on Friday amid uproar over Price’s use of costly private planes for official government business.
His abrupt departure was announced an hour after Trump told reporters he did not like the way the scandal reflected on his administration.
Price earlier had promised to repay the nearly $52,000 cost of his seats on private charter flights.
“The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes,” he said.
But that was not enough to satisfy Trump who said the “optics” of Price’s travel were not good, since, as president he was trying to renegotiate U.S. contracts to get a better deal for taxpayers.
“Look, I think he’s a very fine person. I certainly don’t like the optics,” Trump said.
Price’s resignation leaves Trump with a second Cabinet position to fill. He has yet to pick a secretary for homeland security after hiring former Secretary John Kelly as his White House chief of staff.
It was the latest blow to the Trump White House, which has struggled to get major legislative achievements passed by Congress and has been embroiled in one controversy after another since Trump took office in January.
Tom Price is the latest in a line of shakeups in the White house. Who has left the administration since President Trump was sworn in? pic.twitter.com/n4Qwpwo9iq— NBC News (@NBCNews) 29 septembre 2017
But others are under scrutiny too in the private plane scandal, as former White House Chief Ethics Attorney Richard Painter pointed out.
“The problem is we have a number of cabinet officials who have been using private aircraft in the same manner, including the Treasury Secretary, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and of course, we’ve got the President himself, who wants to hop on down to Mar-a-Lago every other week in the wintertime, and those trips can cost about a million a pop.”
Trump named Don Wright to serve as acting secretary. Wright is currently the deputy assistant secretary for health and director of the office of disease prevention and health promotion.
Price had been seen in the White House as having been ineffective in getting Congress to pass healthcare reform legislation, as candidate Trump had promised.
Democrats say Obamacare has extended health insurance to millions. For Republicans it’s government overreach.
The latest bid to overturn it failed on Tuesday after the Republican Party was unable to win enough support from its own senators.