As the spread of the coronavirus pandemic expands, the failures of the Trump administration to prepare and respond to the growing crisis are becoming more and more obvious despite the White House’s attempts at damage control.
After Donald Trump’s frightening lack of intelligence regarding medical matters beyond bone spur diagnoses was put on full display in his various televised public comments on the outbreak, the administration has now banned audio or video recording of its latest meeting concerning the government’s plans for emergency measures to address the health crisis, as The New York Times‘ White House correspondent Maggie Haberman revealed in a tweet and as was confirmed by The Los Angeles Times‘ Noah Bierman.
Officials aren't permitting audio or video of this briefing > https://t.co/K3ARcrJWiW
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) March 3, 2020
This is a White House briefing on the virus with no audio or video allowed. pic.twitter.com/yrRnYklP9c
— Noah Bierman (@Noahbierman) March 3, 2020
While the task force headed by Vice President Mike Pence to coordinate the federal response to the coronavirus attempts to maintain plausible deniability about any misinformation they may be disseminating by forbidding the recording of their actual words, Republicans in Congress are adding to the delay in authorizing a supposedly bipartisan emergency bill to provide funding for research on the coronavirus and the best ways to treat those who have contracted it, including vaccine development.
As petty and unbelievable as it may seem, the GOP members of the Senate object to a provision in the bill that would prevent drug manufacturers from price-gouging and overcharging the government for any vaccine or other treatment that big pharmaceutical companies may come up with.
“Our Republican friends don’t want to see the kinds of limitations that we want to see,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) about the Senate debate over the language of the bill, according to a report at Politico.
Although treatment options are still far from being ready for testing much less for distribution to the public, the argument over who will bear the costs of medical research and patient care goes to the root of the political divisions over whether health care is a human right that should be equally affordable to every American regardless of their income level.
According to Politico:
“Democrats are insisting the spending package include significant funding to purchase large amounts of coronavirus diagnostics, treatments and vaccine, when it becomes available, which would then be made available to the public free of cost, according to a senior Democratic aide.”
“The Democratic aide said Republicans are trying to eliminate the “fair and reasonable price” federal procurement standard for the vaccines and treatments that will be developed and purchased with the emergency funds. “Fair and reasonable price” is a basic standard to prevent price gouging in federal contracts. Republicans argue they are trying to fight Democratic efforts to create a new set of price controls and that they are not asking for changes to the underlying procurement standards.”
With the coronavirus death toll at nine in the United States with 77 active cases across 14 jurisdictions — 13 states plus the populous metropolis of New York City — it seems as if the GOP senators are more concerned with protecting the enormous profits of their big donors in the pharmaceutical industry than in seeing that public health is protected and individual citizens are able to afford the necessary care.
Since Congress is looking at an emergency spending allocation closer to the $8.5 billion that Democrats have requested than the Trump administration’s request for $2.5 billion, Democratic senators are refusing to allow the Republicans to let the medical industry reap huge profits from government funded-research as they have so many times before in the past.
“We are not going to say the companies after we taxpayers have paid for it, ‘now go out and make a huge profit.’ That’s not going to happen,” the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Appropriations Committee Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said.
Other Democratic senators criticized the administration’s response after a reportedly “contentious” meeting with Vice President Pence.
“The failure to develop and distribute working test kits to public health agencies has really cost us valuable time,” Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), who represents the state where the first domestic fatalities connected t0 the diesease have taken place, said after the meeting.
“I’m hearing from people personally across our state who are frustrated. They believe they have been exposed, they are sick, they want to get tested — but they have nowhere to go,” she lamented.
“There’s not enough test kits. We don’t know how wide it is. And it’s because the president dropped the ball early,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT).
“A lot of questions. Not a lot of information at this point,” added Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).
The secrecy with which the administration is now shrouding its briefings on the coronavirus and the reluctance of Republican Senators to prevent big pharma from profiteering on the back of the pandemic should give you more than enough information to know which party cares more about individuals than faceless corporations owned by the international oligarchy.
Please remember that — and which party is backing the lawsuit in federal court trying to rescind the mandate that health insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions included in Obamacare— when you go to vote in the November elections.
Hint: it’s not the Democrats, who are almost universally on record as favoring one form or another of universal health coverage.
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.