Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) pulled no punches while grilling acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf about the spread of the Coronavirus during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the 2021 DHS budget Tuesday.
Prior to the hearing Tuesday morning, Trump administration officials in Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and the State Department held a classified briefing for senators amid growing fears of the spread of Coronavirus after outbreaks have been reported in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
The CDC warned Tuesday for “the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad.” Global markets were rattled this week after U.S. stocks took a deep dive Monday amid investors’ fears surrounding the spread of the disease.
When Kennedy asked Wolf about the number of Coronavirus cases that the U.S. is anticipating, the acting DHS secretary said that his department is “working with HHS to determine that.”
The Louisiana senator visibly grew more frustrated as he argued that as the head of Homeland Security, “your job is to keep us safe”
“Don’t you think you ought to check on that? You’re the secretary,” Kennedy said. “I think you ought to know that answer.”
Kennedy continued to call out Wolf.
“Your numbers aren’t the same as CDC’s. Don’t you think you ought to contact them and find our whether you’re right or they’re right?” Kennedy said. “The American people deserve some straight answers on the coronavirus and I’m not getting them from you.”
In a Tuesday afternoon tweet responding to Buzzfeed News reporter Hamed Aleaziz’s take on the hearing, DHS spokesperson Heather Swift suggested that the department isn’t responsible for answering Kennedy’s medical questions.
The Senator should direct medical questions to HHS and CDC. DHS's role is primarily related to air, land and sea ports.
— Heather Swift, DHS spokesperson (@SpoxDHS) February 25, 2020
Watch Kennedy’s remarks below:
WATCH: Sen. Kennedy presses Acting DHS Sec. Wolf on coronavirus preparedness and equipment:
"You're supposed to keep us safe. And the American people deserve some straight answers on the coronavirus — and I'm not getting them from you." pic.twitter.com/ZeGnICJZML
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 25, 2020