MURPHY BLASTS TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S RESPONSE TO THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; and Appropriations Committees, on Tuesday blasted the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak and urged them to immediately reestablish the National Security Council (NSC) Directorate to oversee current response and epidemic preparedness:

"For years, many of us have warned that Trump's attacks on global health programs, and his complete disinterest in protecting America from pandemic diseases, would have consequences for our nation's safety. Now, the day of consequence is arriving," said Murphy. "Year after year, Trump repeatedly sought to cut critical global and domestic health programs to strengthen our response capabilities, and opposed mechanisms to prevent future epidemics. Even worse, in 2018 Trump disbanded the National Security Council unit tasked with coordinating a government-wide response to pandemics and gutted the Homeland Security Advisor position that manages complex transnational threats like the coronavirus.”

Murphy continued: “A ‘task force’ led by HHS Secretary Azar is simply insufficient. Epidemics like the coronavirus require a whole-of-government response. Congress must take the lead - we must pass an emergency funding bill that will force the administration to adequately respond to the coronavirus and prepare us for future pandemics. The President must also immediately re-establish the National Security Council directorate to deal with epidemic preparedness and response, before this turns into a full-blown crisis.”

Background:

  • Trump sought a $100 million cut to the Pandemic Preparedness account in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and another $50 million cut in FY 2020, which supports countries vulnerable to an outbreak;
  • Trump sought a $260 million cut in FY 2019 to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, which supports domestic medical readiness and infrastructure to respond to public health threats;
  • Trump sought a $100 million cut in FY 2020 to the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases that works to prevent illness, disability, and death caused by infectious diseases;
  • Trump initially opposed the creation of a separate Infectious Disease Rapid Reserve Fund that allows CDC to initiate timely and effective disease response; Congress created it in FY 2019 and rejected Trump’s call to flat fund it last year;
  • President Obama created a permanent “Pandemic Preparedness and Response Directorate” inside the National Security Council in 2015, led by a Deputy National Security Adviser-level appointee with direct access to the President as needed, to oversee ongoing work to prepare for future infectious disease threats, and to coordinate a response when such threats arrive; and
  • In July of 2018, Trump disbanded this unit, and Admiral Ziemer was reassigned to USAID. As a result, there has been no special unit at the NSC to oversee preparedness for epidemics, or the current response. In addition, the Trump administration has dismantled the Homeland Security Advisor structure that Presidents Bush and Obama used to deal with complex transnational threats, further undermining our preparedness for events like these.

###