A Coronavirus Briefing From Trump Officials Left Bennet And Other Senators Skeptical

February 25, 2020
Indonesia Asia CoronavirusIndonesia Asia CoronavirusTatan Syuflana/AP
A health official holds a health alert card at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. Indonesia is screening travelers from overseas for a new type of coronavirus as fears spread about a mysterious infectious disease after its first death reported in China.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet was underwhelmed by a closed-door briefing on the Trump Administration's response to the COVID-19 virus outbreak.

The Democrat said in a statement that the administration’s response to the growing global health crisis has been “pitiful” and “lacks a clear and comprehensive strategy to address this challenge.”

The skepticism extended across party lines

Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana said after the briefing, “I was not impressed.” And Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington said, “I am very concerned that we are not prepared for this or for anything like it in the future.”

But Republican Sen. Cory Gardner was more circumspect. He said in a statement that the briefing showed that the U.S. must “work in a global coordinated effort” to contain the novel coronavirus. 

Gardner has written to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department about plans to contain the outbreak, and the development of screening practices and treatments.

The Republican senator also took to Twitter to expand on his views.

Bennet was one of several senators — both Democratic and Republican — who were also critical of the administration's $1.8 billion emergency funding request, calling it “inadequate.” 

The Trump administration has asked for $1.25 billion from Congress, and plans to redirect another $535 million. The federal government plans to spend at least $2.5 billion in total to respond to the coronavirus.

The Republican chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Richard Shelby, urged the administration not to make a lowball request. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar testified in front of a budget sub-committee Tuesday about the president’s overall budget for his department, as well as how the administration is preparing.

Gardner did not comment on the level of funding proposed, but did urge fellow senators to “quickly provide adequate resources for the response effort.”

The CDC warned Tuesday that the virus will begin spreading in the U.S. So far, 14 Americans have tested positive for the disease, and there have been 43 repatriated cases — three from Wuhan and 40 Americans who flew back from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.