WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee, on Wednesday joined CNN’s the Daily DC with CNN Senior Political Correspondent Nia-Malika Henderson to discuss this week’s HELP hearing with White House coronavirus task force members where Murphy pressed for CDC guidance as states look to reopen in the coming days and weeks. On this podcast, Murphy also discussed the importance of establishing a national testing, tracing, and quarantine regime before states reopen, and the failures of the Trump administration to manage COVID-19.
On Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bringing the Senate back in session to do non-COVID-19 related work, Murphy said: “I argue that we should be in Washington to do the business related to responding to this virus. I'm not sure that we should be in Washington to just confirm more conservative judges—I'm not sure that that's worth putting thousands of Capitol employees at risk.”
On the White House’s failure to provide guidance as states and local leaders make tough decisions on reopening, Murphy said: “I think their decision not to provide this guidance is going to cost lives….[A]s we seek to go through a very complicated and nuanced reopening of our economy, we need guidance from the CDC. How is it different to reopen a daycare center than it is a restaurant? What do we need to do if we have a spike in infections in a particular city? Which businesses can remain open, which ones need to be closed? That guidance can really only come from the CDC. There aren’t enough experts in 50 state governments to be able to develop that plan on their own.”
On the White House’s refusal to release the CDC document, Murphy said: “…the White House has refused to release this document because they don't want to take responsibility. The President of the United States wants to remain an armchair quarterback. He wants to be able to stand up at these press conferences and criticize states—push the responsibility onto them if the reopening doesn't go well. And that's just an abdication of his responsibility as the Commander in Chief and the president of our country, and an invitation for more people to die. We will try to get it right in Connecticut, but I don’t have the staff of epidemiologists at the Department of Public Health in Hartford that the CDC does. The entire reason they exist is to manage the United States through epidemics like this, and the president isn’t letting them do it.”
On the Trump administration’s refusal to put together a comprehensive, national testing, tracing and quarantine regime before reopening, Murphy said: “…this Plan to Reopen America says that state shouldn’t reopen unless they have a system of testing, tracing, and quarantine so that if there is a resurgence of the virus somewhere, that you can jump on it, isolate it, stop it from reversing a positive trend line state wide.”
Murphy continued: “The problem is the Trump administration has fought against efforts to try to fund the development of that very system of testing, tracing and quarantine. The administration doesn't support any new money for states to build that system. And so Dr. Fauci is up in Congress warning states not to reopen too early, but states then are looking back at the federal government and saying, ’Wait a second. You're not providing me with any of the resources I need in order to reopen safely. People are out of work and desperate.’ And so, you know, the warnings are a little hollow to me if the federal government and the Trump administration specifically isn't willing to provide that support.”
Murphy also discussed the dangers of reopening too soon and the need to federalize the supply chain in order to establish a national testing regime: “…What I know from listening to public health experts is that it's not safe for kids to go back to school unless we have that system of testing, tracing, and quarantine established…[T]hat's why Senate Democrats have been pushing the administration to develop a national testing program. That's why I've introduced legislation, parts of which are included in the House draft of the new coronavirus relief bill, that would require the president to take control of the supply chain for testing equipment. Because if we don't have robust testing, then we don't know when our kids might be in jeopardy.”
Murphy also blasted the Trump administration’s failure to handle COVID-19: “I frankly think in some ways it’s too late for the federal government to make up for all of the lost time. What essentially happened here is that after the travel ban didn't work, the president gave up…and he tried to wish away the virus. He left the response to the states and to the cities and to the hospitals.”
On what he wants to see from the federal government now, Murphy said: “So what I want to make sure happens is that the federal government and the Trump administration fund our efforts in Connecticut… I don't think that Connecticut can manage the supply chain of testing on our own. You know, we don't know where all the swabs are. And so the federal government does need to temporarily take over the manufacturing and supply of things like tests, testing equipment, personal protective equipment. I want the administration to do that. And I think we can force them to do that in this next relief bill.”
Click here to listen to the interview in full.