Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said Thursday that he will no longer take private chartered planes and will repay the U.S. Treasury for the costs of his seats on prior trips.
Price came under fire this week after it was revealed that he took as many as 24 trips on private planes, costing taxpayers as much as $400,000. Price's travel habits are under investigation from the HHS Office of Inspector General and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. President Donald Trump said this week that he is also "looking into" the situation with Price. When asked by reporters if he would fire Price, Trump said "we'll see."
In a statement, Price said that he will cooperate fully with the investigations. There will be "no exceptions" to the decision to end travel on chartered planes, and he will write a personal check to the Treasury to cover the costs of his seats. An HHS official told the Washington Post the check will equal about $52,000.
"All of my political career I’ve fought for the taxpayers. It is clear to me that in this case, I was not sensitive enough to my concern for the taxpayer," Price said. "I know as well as anyone that the American people want to know that their hard-earned dollars are being spent wisely by government officials."
The news about Price's use of chartered planes came as the secretary sought to "reimagine" HHS and make significant cost cuts. The number of times he took private planes stood in contrast to his predecessors, who would typically fly commercial.
Former secretary Kathleen Sebelius said this week that she only took a chartered plane once, and that it was a propeller plane to reach three villages that were not accessible by road or commercial airplane. Meanwhile, Price's trips since May included speaking engagements and conferences to states a short distance from District of Columbia.
RELATED: 10 things to know about Tom Price
In the statement, Price said he would also kick off an internal investigation into the travel expenses. He reiterated that all of his travel was approved by legal and HHS officials. HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Charmaine Yoest previously said the flights were booked because of Price's "demanding schedule."
Democrats have called on Price to resign following the controversy. A group of five Democratic representatives sent a letter to Price on Wednesday, asking him to "do the right thing."
"The American people deserve cabinet secretaries who place the public good above their own interests," they said.
Price took military planes abroad, while HHS staffers flew commercial
Price took military planes with his wife while traveling to Africa, Europe and Asia, according to an article from Politico. The flights cost taxpayers more than $500,000, while other members of the secretary's team on the European trip took commercial flights.
Yoest told Politico that Price reimbursed the government for his wife's travel costs. The White House approves military aircraft for overseas trips by cabinet members on a case-by-case basis, according to the article
Editor's note: This article was updated Sept. 29 to clarify Price's comments and include new information about his use of military planes for travel.