Posts tagged with "Roll Call"

Roll Call exclusive: States plan to independently vet COVID-19 vaccine data

September 18, 2020

Governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo, are publicly raising doubts about the FDA’s and the CDC’s ability to withstand pressure from President Donald Trump to develop a coronavirus vaccine at warp speed, Roll Call reported exclusively on September 17.

Those same officials are expressing skepticism about federal reviews of potential COVID-19 vaccines—with some going so far as to plan to independently analyze clinical trial data before distributing a vaccine, in a sign of how sharply trust in federal health agencies has fallen this year.

The wariness—which public health experts call highly unusual if not unprecedented—could undercut the goal of a cohesive national immunization strategy and create a patchwork of efforts that may sabotage hopes of containing the coronavirus.

State plans to review the data indicate how deeply any appearance of political meddling could disrupt vaccination and cost lives Roll Call says.

And it’s not a surprise that some red states appear more likely to rely on the Trump Administration, while blue states may scour the data and be more cautious about vaccinating their residents immediately.

CQ Roll Call contacted state health departments in 50 states and the District of Columbia and received substantive responses from a dozen:

  • Seven jurisdictions indicated that they would analyze the data independently: California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Michigan, New York, Oregon and West Virginia.
  • Another two—Montana and Wyoming—said they would only administer a vaccine that completed clinical trials and an outside committee’s review.
  • Three states —Arizona, Georgia and Oklahoma— indicated they would accept federal recommendations as usual.

 “The president says he’s going to have a vaccine. CDC is talking about a vaccine in early November. How convenient. It’s going to be an Election Day miracle drug,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said earlier this month.

Cuomo referenced the FDA’s emergency use authorization earlier this year of a drug touted by Trump, hydroxychloroquine, which the agency later withdrew after finding the drug was not effective against COVID-19 and could lead to dangerous heart conditions. “Some people are concerned that the vaccine may wind up being hydroxychloroquine,” he said, adding that the state health department will review the research before recommending that New Yorkers take any vaccine.

Nearly 200,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Research contact: @rollcall

Trump Administration cuts off funding to 13 drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites in five states

June 25, 2020

The Trump Administration is doing its level best to close—or at the very least, slow down—coronavirus testing nationwide by cutting off support to 13 drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites on June 30; and leaving operation and funding of those sites to the states—even as cases spike in several parts of the country, Politico reports.

This is not the first time that the Administration has tried to offload control of the drive-thru sites to the states—but the last effort was suspended in April when governors in the states affected objected strongly.

The 13 sites—in Illinois, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Texas—are the last federally run sites out of 41 originally established across the country. Seven sites are in hard-hit Texas, where cases are climbing.

Taking the offensive on Thursday, June 24, Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir told Roll Call that the sites were always meant to be a temporary solution as the country worked to ramp up testing capacity in traditional health care settings.

What he didn’t mention was that, with a looming election challenge, Trump has seen the pandemic as a drag on the economy that he simply wants to go away.

Indeed, in early March, the president transferred responsibility for flattening the line on the coronavirus pandemic to the states—and, specifically, to the governors. He will neither wear a mask nor recommend one; and he has been unwilling to release nearly $14B in Congressional funding for testing and tracing efforts to combat COVID-19. However, he continues to brag that his pandemic effort is the best ever executed.

Already protesters are piling on: Scott Becker, CEO of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, tells Politico that it’s not the right time to shift responsibility for the sites to the states—especially those near emerging hot spots in Texas

“The federally supported testing sites remain critically needed, and in some place like Houston and Harris County, TX and in other hotspots, are needed now more than ever,” Becker said in an email. “This is not the time for the federal government to walk back prior commitments on testing.”

Even Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) is critical of the plan, noting,. “It’s pretty clear to me, and I think it’s clear to all of us, that with the uptick of cases, now is not the time to retreat from our vigilance in testing,” he said. “I believe that they need to extend that federal support in Texas, at least until we get this most recent uptick in cases addressed.”

So what will be the outcome? HHS says there is no going back: Gigroir recommends that the state governors can use CARES Act funding to maintain operations at the current federally supported testing sites.

Research contact: @politico

Joe Scarborough calls Trump out on COVID-19 liability waiver for supporters at Tulsa rally

June 15, 2020

Many Trump supporters are so zealous that they say they’d walk through fire for him. But would they expose themselves to something equally as dangerous–COVID-19?

That’s what they are being asked to do next Friday night, when the president presides over his first rally in nearly three months in Tulsa. In fact, Trump is demanding that members of his loyal base insulate his campaign from accountability by signing a liability waivers for COVID-19, if they want to attend the June 19 event, Roll Call reports.

“By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present,” the online registration form for the public says. “By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; BOK Center; ASM Global; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury.”

The BOK Center is the large indoor arena in Tulsa that will be the site of the June 19 Trump campaign rally. ASM Global manages the venue, says Roll Call.

The White House and congressional Republicans are focusing on including limitations on liability for coronavirus-related claims in any economic aid package. It was not immediately clear how that might apply to political campaigns.

But MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, the host of Morning Joe,  spelled out the possible consequence of attending Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa amid the coronavirus pandemic by taking to his Twitter feed to rewrite the liability waiver for fans wanting tickets. 

Scarborough’s redraft was short and to the point:

“TRUMP: Come to Our Rally. PS. It could kill you, but that’s your problem.

The coronavirus has killed more than 116,000 people nationwide, and at least 14 states are experiencing a surge of new cases following the easing of restrictions.

Scarborough expanded on the waiver on Friday’s broadcast, which he co-hosts with his wife Mika Brzezinski, saying, “Donald Trump is standing alone more and more every single day on this issue of race.”

Research contact: @rollcall

Senate panel votes to require Pentagon to assign new names to bases dubbed for Confederates

June 12, 2020

The Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee has approved an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that would require the Pentagon to rename bases and other assets that are named after Confederate military leaders, a source confirmed to The Hill.

The move comes as Americans have hit the streets for 16 nights straight to protest the murder in Minnesota of George Floyd on May 25—and to assert that Black Lives Matter.

The amendment, offered by committee member Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), was approved by voice vote on Wednesday, June 10, during the committee’s closed-door markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the source familiar with the situation told The Hill.

The amendment would give the Pentagon three years to remove the Confederate names.

The news, which was first reported by Roll Call, comes after President Donald Trump said he would “not even consider” renaming the Army bases, insisting on his Twitter feed:

It has been suggested that we should rename as many as 10 of our Legendary Military Bases, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia, etc. These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.

Just two days before Trump’s tweets, an Army spokesperson said Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Defense Secretary Mark Esper were “open” to renaming the 10 bases that are named after Confederate military officers.

Specifically, the bases, which are in Southern states, are Fort Lee, Fort Hood, Fort Benning, Fort Gordon, Fort Bragg, Fort Polk, Fort Pickett, Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Rucker and Camp Beauregard.

During a briefing Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany also said Trump would veto the NDAA if the massive policy bill mandated changing the names of the bases.

The inclusion of the amendment to force the Pentagon to change the base names, coupled with McEnany’s veto threat, potentially puts the White House on a collision course with Congress over what’s generally considered a must-pass bill. Republicans disinclined to confront the president still have opportunities to strip the amendment if they want, such as when the bill hits the Senate floor as soon as next week.

Research contact: @thehill

Rich man, poor man: Fed legislators are worth 10X more than voters

March 5, 2018

The median net worth of an adult American is $44,900 , based on findings of a Business Insider study released in June 2017. That’s less than one-tenth of median net worth of a federal legislator, according to a study by Roll Call released on February 27.

The people’s representatives just keep getting richer, and doing so faster than the people they represent. Indeed, according to Roll Call’s data, the median minimum net worth (meaning half are worth more; half less) of today’s Senators and House members was $511,000 at the start of this Congress, an upward push of 16% over just the past two years. The total wealth of all current members was at least $2.43 billion when the 115th Congress began.

The political news source noted, “The disparity becomes clear after examining the most recent financial disclosures of virtually every current lawmaker. The news is not likely to do them any good during a midterm campaign year when disapproval of Capitol Hill remains in record territory and sentiment remains strong that politicians in Washington are far too disconnected from the lives of their constituents.”

For every 13 members of the U.S. Congress, Roll Call found, one may fairly be dubbed a “1 percenter,” the term of derision imposed by liberal groups on the richest 1% of Americans. Data from the Federal Reserve pegged the net worth threshold for these people at $10.4 million in 2016, a mark exceeded by 26 Republicans and 17 Democrats during this session of Congress.

Specifically, more than half of the collective worth of Congress is held by 12 members, Roll Call documented. Among the 10 richest member of the current U.S. Congress are the following:

  1. Darrell Issa (R-California): $283M
  2. Greg Guianforte (R-Montana): $136M
  3. Jared Polis (D-Colorado): $123M
  4. Dave Trott (R-Michigan) $119M
  5. Michael McCaul (R-Rexas): $113M
  6. John Delaney (D-Maryland) $93M
  7. Mark Warner (D-Virginia): $93M
  8. Vern Buchanan (R-Florida) $74M
  9. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut): $70M
  10. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) $58M
  11. Tom Rooney (R-Florida): $55M
  12. Trey Hollingsworth (R-Indiana): $50M

Below this rung of the phenomenally prosperous is a thicker belt of the merely flush— the 153 House members (13 more than in the previous Congress) and 50 senators who are millionaires, at least on paper. This stands in contrast to the 7.4% of U.S. households that had amassed a net worth above $1 million in 2016, their home values included, according to the Spectrum Group investment research firm.

By coincidence, 38% of the women in Congress are millionaires—identical to the share of millionaires in the total membership.

The congressional millionaire ranks skew old, “reinforcing how many people enter politics only after they’ve assured themselves of a solid financial footing.” Roll Call said. A little more than half of the five dozen lawmakers born before the end of World War II are worth more than $1 million, as are 43% of the Hill’s Baby Boomers (or the five out of eight members born between 1946 and 1964). But among the quarter of the membership from Generation X and the handful of Millennials, only 20% are millionaire.

At the other end of the spectrum are nearly one-quarter of the members (123),  whose financial disclosures reflect a negative net worth. For many this is true only on paper, because they owe plenty on their home mortgages, which must be reported while the value of their real estate is not. (Neither is their annual $174,000 government salary.)

And in the middle are the “typical” members, with senators boasting a significantly better median net worth ($1.4 million for Republicans, $946,000 for Democrats) than House members, where the median figure for both caucuses is just north of $400,000.

A very similar figure, $397,000, is the minimum net worth disclosed on the essentially identical form for 2016 filled out by Vice President Mike Pence, who spent a dozen years as a federal legislator from Indiana.

President Donald Trump’s most recent form, however, describes a chief executive far richer than anyone in the legislative branch-—worth at least $1.1 billion at the time of his election.

Research contact: davidhawkings@cqrollcall.com