With the resignation on Friday of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, amid a furor over private charter jet trips paid for by taxpayer dollars, Democrats in Congress demanded a full accounting of travel expenses by other members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, using the dust up to bolster their attacks on members of the Trump Administration.
“It’s time for full accountability on how the Jet Set Cabinet has spent our tax dollars,” said Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN).
“I am glad that Tom Price has resigned,” said Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA). “Just another example of what appears to be serious ethical failings throughout the Administration.”
As Price departed, Democrats were already asking the feds for more details on the travel habits of others in the Trump Cabinet, especially zeroing in on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, EPA chief Scott Pruitt and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Zinke has already said he thinks questions about his travel are “BS,” amid reports that he had the Interior Department spend over $12,000 on a private jet to fly home to Montana.
Pruitt also has had taxpayers pay for a $14,000 charter jet flight – in his home state of Oklahoma – and is a lightning rod anyway for Democrats in the Congress, who cried foul over reports earlier this week that he was spending $25,000 to install a soundproof booth in his official Washington office.
“Scott Pruitt is paranoid and needs to be investigated,” said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA).
The White House tried to move swiftly to tamp down the travel controversy on Friday evening, as the President’s budget chief sent a memo to agency heads reminding them that how they do their job has a major impact on the ability of the Trump Administration to succeed.
“Every penny we spend comes from the taxpayer,” wrote OMB chief Mick Mulvaney.
“We thus owe it to the taxpayer to work as hard managing that money wisely as the taxpayer must do to earn it in the first place,” Mulvaney added.
“Unnecessary or expensive travel is to be avoided,” said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), echoing the warning of Mulvaney.
“Taxpayers wonder how priorities are set when they see things like that,” the key Republican added.
Questions were also being raised about the overseas travel of Veterans Secretary David Shulkin, who took his wife on a 10 day official trip to Europe, in which he sandwiched government visits around a variety of sightseeing stops.
“Veterans and taxpayers have a right to know about my official travel as Secretary, and posting this information online for all to see will do just that,” Shulkin said in a statement.
Other travel stories were bubbling up on Friday about the President’s family as well, as CBS reported that a ski vacation to Colorado taken by Ivanka Trump, her brother Eric, and their families, incurred security costs of over $300,000, ultimately paid for by taxpayers.