House Republicans stormed out of a closed-door coronavirus briefing Friday with Trump health officials after a senior Democrat sharply criticized the Trump administration’s handling of the response effort, calling it disorganized and lacking urgency in combating the coronavirus.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) kicked off the briefing sharply criticizing the administration as disorganized and lacking urgency in combating the coronavirus, lawmakers said. Her speech frustrated Republicans and some Democrats assembled to hear from the slate of officials from the CDC, NIH and State Department.
A handful of Republicans began booing almost immediately after DeLauro raised concerns with the administration’s efforts, Politico reports citing two people in the room.
DeLauro’s comments came as political tensions grow over the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus response. President Donald Trump, who has publicly tried to downplay the virus through a series of misleading claims, just after midnight took to Twitter to complain that Democrats were pinning the crisis on him.
DeLauro, the leading House health appropriator, accused the administration of a lack of urgency and warned that there were several crucial questions that remained unanswered about the coronavirus response. As lawmakers transferred to a bigger room to accommodate all the attendees, a visibly frustrated DeLauro told colleagues she didn’t “give a rat’s ass” and about the reaction and that members needed answers from the administration.
“I feel that the issue on resources and current expenditures has been less than adequate and that these are some of the questions that we have to get answered,” she told reporters afterward, and her office later released a transcript of her remarks. “I quite frankly don’t worry about people who may have a concern. I just know that the questions are right.”
Several Democrats downplayed DeLauro’s speech, saying that it spoke to the urgency of the situation. One person in the room characterized her opening remarks as “a truly low-key Rosa DeLauro,” adding that she was “at a 2” out of 10.
The briefing, led by CDC Director Robert Redfield and NIH infectious disease specialist Tony Fauci, was called to update members on the state of the coronavirus’ spread.
Redfield stressed that the risk to Americans remained low. But Fauci was more blunt, according to one person in the room, telling lawmakers that they need to accept there will be many more cases in the United States.
Fauci said the coronavirus is “unlikely to disappear” any time in the near future, according to the person. The remarks contradicted Trump’s declaration Thursday night that the disease was “going to disappear” one day “like a miracle.”
Asked about an HHS whistleblower complaint alleging the department dispatched unprotected workers to aid coronavirus evacuees from China, the officials did not directly contradict the allegations, lawmakers said. But they insisted that they believed everyone was properly trained and protocols were followed.
Robert Kadlec, the HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response, emphasized that no response workers had gotten sick while receiving the evacuees. But Rep. Mark Takano (D-Wash.), who represents a district where one of the Air Force bases that received evacuees, said he found the administration’s response lacking.
“It was not a satisfactory answer,” he told reporters afterward.
The whistleblower has sought help from the office of Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) During the briefing, Kadlec offered to set up a separate meeting with several California lawmakers to address additional questions about the complaint.