VIDEO: REPUBLICANS ARE UNHAPPY WITH TOM PRICE'S USE OF PRIVATE JETSDate: 2017-09-29
Hill Republicans are fuming over Tom Price's travel costs using private jets.
Patience is running low on Capitol Hill for Health And Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Price has reportedly spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on privately chartered flights to travel around the country.
"I think the President's mad as hell," a Republican senator told CNN this week. "What f*** was he thinking?"
He added: "It's just stupid. I think Price can probably survive this. Don't know."
On Thursday this week, Price said he planned to "write a personal check to the US Treasury for the expenses of my travel on private charter planes" and that he "would no longer take private charter flights as the secretary of HHS no exceptions."
It has been identified by Politico that Price took $400,000 in chartered flights so far, including one flight worth $25,000 between Washington and Philadelphia. In recent days, the President's frustration has been palpable. When asked on Wednesday if he would fire Price, Trump responded: "We'll see."
The decision of whether to keep or fire Price is ultimately up to Trump, but a few members on Capitol Hill were not shy about their misgivings on Thursday before Price announced he would pay back his travel.
"[Everything] that happens around here is based on appearances. And if it just appears wrong, don't do it," Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, said about Price, before turning to a reporter and pointing at him and continuing, "I don't know, you have a good job, you've been working there a while. What would others think if you were chartering a private jet to go and do interviews with people? They probably wouldn't like it and particularly if you know the company was paying for it, they didn't get that same benefit."
"It's a matter of appearances and again, I think the direction just needs to be set from the top that you don't do this," she added.
As a Republican congressman, Price built a reputation as a fiscal conservative, going as far as admonishing Democratic members of Congress for using private jets at one point. Price had even called the travel "another example of fiscal irresponsibility to run amok in Congress right now."
In the House, many of Price's former colleagues were hesitant to criticize Price on record.
"We all know Tom very well and without knowing the full story, which I don't and knowing what I know about Tom and knowing what everybody in that room knows about Tom, we all want to give him the full benefit of the doubt that what you are hearing may not be the full story," Republican Tom Rooney, R-Florida, said on Wednesday.
However, by Thursday, the patience among his colleagues was subsiding slightly with members openly criticizing his decision.
"I think his use of private jets was not the most prudent thing for a fiscal conservative," said Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. "That being said, apologize, make sure it doesn't happen, put a policy in place under this administration to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Rep. Steve Womack, R-Arkansas, was unequivocal that he still supported Price in his role at HHS, but he said that "right now, this is between the President and the secretary."
"We don't want it to just linger forever," Womack said. "We have a lot of important work ahead of us and if the secretary is going to remain in his capacity then he needs to be given that ability and if he's not, change chousl occure as wuickly as possible because of the unfinished business that we have."
Senate Republican Whip John Cornryn of Texas also tried to refrain from weighing in on the controversy, telling reporters he didn't know anything more than what he has read in the press.
However, when a reporter pressed him for a response, the usually talkative Texan paused with an awkward smile for a full 10 seconds before saying, "good to talk to you" and disappeared into the Senate floor.