Paul Ryan: Cabinet members’ private air travel "doesn't look very good"

Ryan weighs in on Cabinet travel controversy

Last Updated Sep 29, 2017 4:41 PM EDT

The burgeoning controversy over some Cabinet members' use of expensive private and government aircraft "doesn't look very good," House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, acknowledged in an interview with Face the Nation that will air Sunday.

Three members of President Trump's cabinet – Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – have recently come under fire for using private chartered flights or government aircraft to travel for work. In some instances, cheaper commercial flights were available, but the officials opted against them.

After the interview with Ryan was taped Thursday, Price announced he will pay the federal government back for his private charter plane flights and take "no more" charter planes while serving as secretary. It did little to quell the controversy, however, and on Friday afternoon, Price offered his resignation to Mr. Trump. The president accepted it.

Trump Cabinet members' private flights draw scrutiny

In the interview, Face the Nation moderator John Dickerson pointed out that Republicans have run on a platform of tight budgets and "draining the swamp," and he asked Ryan how the controversy must look to voters.

"Yeah, doesn't' look very good, I can tell you that," the House speaker said.

Ryan claimed the issue is not unique to Mr. Trump's administration, but he added it's worth looking into.

"Congress has always looked into this issue," he said. "It's been a recurring thing…since I've ever been in Congress…we need to conduct oversight on anything the Executive Branch does, no matter who's running the Executive Branch."

Speaking before Price resigned, Ryan spoke up in support of the outgoing HHS secretary, his former colleague in the House. "If you're talking about Tom, that is being looked into," he said. "I've got to say, though…I don't think you can find a better person at HHS."

The House Speaker argued there can be compelling reasons for Cabinet officials to travel on private or government aircraft. "I don't know the circumstances," he said. "Some -- I mean, [Defense Secretary] Jim Mattis, he needs to use – he needs to be in constant communications with war commanders."

"He's the Secretary of Defense, though," Dickerson said. "HHS is not dealing with the North Koreans."

"I know," Ryan replied. "But my point is…not all situations are the same. So there are unique, distinct situations that bear looking at it specifically."

For more of Ryan's interview with Face the Nation, tune in Sunday. Click hear to check your local listings for airtimes