BRANCHBURG, N.J. — The ouster of Tom Price as President Donald Trump’s health secretary is yet another self-inflicted blow for Republicans wishing to put their own stamp on health care — and the latest distraction for a White House struggling to advance its agenda after months of turmoil.
Price resigned Friday amid investigations into his use of costly charter flights for official travel at taxpayer expense. His exit makes it even more unlikely that Republicans will be able to deliver on their promise to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s law, even though they control the White House and both chambers of Congress.
“I think health care is a dead letter through the next election,” Joe Antos, a policy expert with the business-oriented American Enterprise Institute, said Saturday.
The health secretary’s exit capped a week in which a last-ditch GOP health care bill failed to advance in the Senate. Regaining momentum will be more difficult now that the White House also has to find a replacement for Price. That makes it harder to visualize how the administration and congressional Republicans can fulfill their goal of remaking the health care system along conservative lines, although Trump has said he’s confident a plan can pass early next year.
Price — who Trump concluded had become a distraction — had been on the rocks with the president since before the travel flap. A former Republican congressman from Georgia, he proved less helpful than expected on the health care fight. Price played a supporting role while Vice President Mike Pence took the lead, especially with the Senate.
The health secretary’s departure — the latest in a list that now includes Trump’s chief of staff, national security adviser, press secretary and two communications directors — is also unlikely to end what has been a steady drip of revelations about potentially inappropriate travel on the part of Cabinet members.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has come under fire for requesting a government aircraft to use on his honeymoon, while Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he’d taken three charter flights while in office, including a $12,375 late-night trip from Las Vegas to his home state of Montana in June. The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general has opened an inquiry into Administrator Scott Pruitt’s frequent taxpayer-funded travel on commercial planes.
The House Oversight and Government Reform committee has launched a government-wide…