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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Saturday, October 21, 2017

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.

Others under scrutiny

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 governmentwide investigation of top political appointees’ travel.

Trump ran on a pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington and has taken pride in his efforts to reduce federal spending and negotiate better deals on behalf of American taxpayers.

In a memo Friday, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said all travel on government-owned, rented, leased or chartered aircraft will now have to be approved by the president’s chief of staff, John Kelly. That gives more oversight power to a man who has tried to impose order and structure on what has been a chaotic White House.

Nominee faces gauntlet

On health care, the task of installing another secretary at the Health and Human Services department won’t be easy.

The nominee will have to run the gauntlet of Senate confirmation. The already contentious process will be more challenging as Democrats shift from playing defense to offense on health care, heartened by the survival of the Affordable Care Act and polls showing support for the government’s leading role in health care.

And HHS is not the only department that needs a leader. Trump has yet to pick a permanent replacement for Kelly, who left his previous job running the Department of Homeland Security in July.

By: Walter Metuth