Senate Democrats have proposed a new coronavirus task force charged with investigating whether the Trump administration meddled with government health agencies responsible for handling the pandemic.
“America will not defeat this virus if people do not have confidence that treatments, vaccines, and guidance are approved with only public health goals in mind,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday. “That confidence has been shaken, but this bill is a first step to restoring it.”
Schumer and 33 Senate Democrats have introduced the Science and Transparency Over Politics Act, which would create a task force to investigate instances in which they say politics interfered with government public health decisions. The group’s findings would be released to relevant congressional committees and to the public.
“It is painfully clear that the Trump administration won’t stop the political interference, which is threatening our response to this pandemic,” said Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate health committee. “We need transparency and accountability from top to bottom, and we need it now … You cannot be for science if you’re silent about political interference in our pandemic response.”
The push for more oversight of the Trump administration comes following several instances of policy reversals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that sowed doubt among outside health experts that the agencies are making decisions without pressure from President Trump.
Most recently, the CDC withdrew guidance Monday that was “posted in error” and warned that the coronavirus could spread through the air. The agency said it will update the language once its review process “has been completed.” Last week, the CDC reversed a controversial policy set in August that recommended against testing for asymptomatic people even if exposed to the coronavirus. Democrats have also aired doubts about Trump’s suggested timeline for the production of a vaccine.
The United States reached a grim milestone Tuesday with more than 200,000 deaths due to COVID-19 reported. The U.S. has confirmed more than 6.8 million cases.