Democratic senators push Trump administration to end plans to withhold public health funding

Democratic senators push Trump administration to end plans to withhold public health funding

Democratic Senators, led by Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) demanded Wednesday that millions in federal funding make their way to Democratic states.

Joined by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, asking him to ensure that money intended for use for public health services will not be withheld from Democratic states as President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General William Barr have threatened.

On Sept. 2, Trump issued a White House memo directing the Office of Management and Budget to review whether or not cities like Seattle, Portland, New York, and Washington, D.C. allowed anarchy and violence, and whether or not to withhold funding from them.

“My Administration will not allow Federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones. To ensure that Federal funds are neither unduly wasted nor spent in a manner that directly violates our Government’s promise to protect life, liberty, and property, it is imperative that the Federal Government review the use of Federal funds by jurisdictions that permit anarchy, violence, and destruction in America’s cities. It is also critical to ensure that Federal grants are used effectively to safeguard taxpayer dollars entrusted to the Federal Government for the benefit of the American people,” the Trump memo said.

According to the senators, HHS has sent a list of more than 1,500 grants that had been awarded to those cities to the White House budget office.

“Tying federal funds for local public health efforts to an arbitrary definition of ‘anarchist jurisdictions’ is of questionable legality and an appalling abuse of power—particularly in the midst of a deadly pandemic and economic recession. According to a report, HHS has identified numerous public health programs and funding mechanisms for potential cuts, including those related to HIV treatment, the opioid crisis, addiction, and recovery services, lung disease, hearing screenings for newborns, nutrition and mental health for the elderly, hospital preparedness, child support enforcement, care for COVID-19 patients at community and migrant health centers, and more,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. “Any arbitrary funding cuts to these programs would have detrimental effects on the vulnerable communities they serve, as well as negatively impact the delivery of crucial health care services during a historic crisis this Administration has utterly failed to mitigate. Additionally, these cuts could further exacerbate the health inequities already made worse by this pandemic.”

The Senators asked Azar to respond within two weeks.