Tom Price is a living testament to the proposition that it’s never too late for a comeback. After a long career as an orthopedic surgeon, four terms in the Georgia state senate, and six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Price became a member of Donald Trump’s original Cabinet as Secretary of Health and Human Services. He promptly worked himself right out of the job in only nine months by massively overspending on official travel, to the tune of a million smackers, utilizing chartered private planes and military aircraft instead of commercial flights, where he might rub elbows with the taxpayers footing the bills. Last year a federal auditor suggested HHS dun Price for $341,000 in reimbursements; it’s unclear whether he’s ponied it up.
Notwithstanding all that unpleasantness, just a few days short of his 65th birthday, instead of enjoying his golden years, Price has decided he’d like to be a United States senator. Yes, the man who managed to stand out for corrupt practices in the Trump administration has reportedly filled out the online application that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has strangely required from those interested in filling the vacancy Johnny Isakson has created by his announcement that he will resign for health reasons at year’s end. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted the pros and cons of Price as a putative appointee:
Pros: He’s got nearly $1.8 million in his campaign account. He’sclose with Kemp. He’s a trusted voice to conservatives on healthcare policy. He’s got high name recognition, plenty of Washington experience and is comfortable in the spotlight.
Cons: His health policies have drawn bitter opposition from constituencies he’d need to win over. His expense scandal would give Democrats endless fodder. He might entice a GOP challenger. And Trump made clear his displeasure with Price throughout the flight saga.
It’s possible, I suppose, that Price somehow made it all up to POTUS, to whom Kemp owes a lot after a well-timed presidential endorsement helped him win a hotly contested Republican nomination contest last year. But there are better positioned aspirants to the seat, like congressman Doug Collins, who has been conspicuously sucking up to Trump from his perch as ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. And it’s not like conservative ideologues are going to consolidate behind Price; many of them are backing Paul Broun, an atavistic former colleague of Price’s in the House and an authentic wing nut.
One thing’s for sure: If Price is named by Kemp to the Senate, or decides to campaign for the final two years of Isakson’s term in a 2020 special election, he’s probably not going to travel in great comfort. You’d have to love the Senate a lot to endure a future of center seats on cheap commercial flights, at a time in life when Price could be living it up in retirement rather than living down his still-recent disgrace.