Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Tuesday called for HHS secretary Alex Azar to resign amid reports on a series of controversies at the department, just as the country approaches nearly 200,000 fatalities from the COVID-19 pandemic.
While speaking on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Schumer cited news over the weekend of political appointees at HHS interfering with reports from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention on COVID-19 — an effort that he said impeded the release of facts that “would have been politically embarrassing” to President Trump.
Schumer then took aim at Trump for pressuring HHS to slow COVID-19 testing down, overstating the benefits of unfounded treatments for the novel coronavirus, and accusing the Food and Drug Administration of holding back the distribution of a vaccine that Trump is pushing to be released before the election.
Schumer went on to say that “too many people within HHS are trying to suppress the science” before ripping into Azar for failing to “push back against these outrageous moves” by the President.
“He has been almost entirely silent about the chaos and mismanagement in his own agency,” Schumer said.
Arguing that the “most important skill” in the Trump administration is “to stand up to the President and resist political influence” especially in an agency like HHS where the health of Americans is at stake, Schumer further tore into Azar and demanded his immediate resignation.
“It has become abundantly clear that the leadership of the Department of Health and Human Services has allowed perhaps the most important federal agency right now to become subservient to the President’s daily whims,” Schumer said. “So today, I am calling on Secretary Azar to resign immediately. We need a Secretary of Health and Human Services who will look out for the American people, not President Trump’s political interests.”
Schumer’s remarks go a step further than Senate health committee ranking member Patty Murray’s (D-WA) call in a recent series of tweets for Azar to demand the resignation of Michael Caputo, HHS assistant secretary of public affairs, after he reportedly claimed that a “resistance unit” of “seditious” government scientists at the CDC are working to undermine Trump.
Murray also criticized Azar for failing to “meet his basic responsibilities” by allowing Caputo to “continue serving in such an influential role,” citing reports over the weekend that surfaced of Caputo’s attempts to skew weekly bulletins from the CDC to fit Trump’s baseless assertions that the COVID-19 pandemic is subsiding.
Watch Schumer’s remarks below:
.@SenSchumer: "Today, I am calling on Secretary Azar to resign immediately. We need a Secretary of Health and Human Services who will look out for the American people, not President Trump's political interests."
— CSPAN (@cspan) September 15, 2020
HHS did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.