While in Congress, Tom Price of Georgia was a fiscal hawk.
An orthopedic surgeon-turned-politician, Price was Budget Committee chairman when he joined the Trump administration as the official destined to author a new health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
As much as the repeal-and-replace for Obamacare has not gone as the administration and Republican leaders in Congress had anticipated, history will record that Price’s Washington demise was not about what he failed to do as Health and Human Services secretary.
Price brought himself down, having little choice but to resign Friday in the face of disapproval from President Donald Trump and just about everyone else. After being such a conservative on spending and making headlines in the past with criticism of travel by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other officials from the Obama administration, Price embarked on a similar course.
Rather than traveling on commercial aircraft or driving, Price has been booking private flights, including one from Washington to Philadelphia. Observers were rightly flabbergasted. Of all the people that might have been expected to be frugal, Price would be him.
Amid growing furor over what may be hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by the secretary on private planes and travel, Price agreed to repay $51,887.31 for his own travel costs. It was too little and too late.
Trump publicly expressed his unhappiness with the situation. And privately, according to The Associated Press, the president told associates Price had become a distraction. Trump felt that Price was overshadowing his tax overhaul agenda.
Plus the flap prompted scrutiny of other Cabinet members' travel, as the House Oversight and Government Reform committee launched a government-wide investigation of top political appointees. Other department heads have been scrambling to explain their own travel.
Though Price found few defenders, there are those doing comparative math. They contend Obama administration officials took 94 private flight during the first eight months compared to 77 by Trump officials in the same amount of time.
No matter, with the president promising to “drain the swamp” in Washington, the Price track record was simply not explainable and could not be justified. He had to go.