California lawmaker scores hollow victory against CDC director

Rep. Katie Porter aggressively questioned CDC Director Robert Redfield Thursday. During testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Porter whipped out a whiteboard and began to itemize what it costs for an uninsured person to get tested for COVID-19. Then she went through a series of questions to Redfield with a goal of getting him to commit to providing free testing for everyone, regardless of insurance coverage.

Today she is a hero, according to left-leaning publications. If you’re looking for a big government solution to personal health care, I suppose that would be an accurate description of the freshman congresswoman. I admit she is a new face in Congress with whom I am unfamiliar. She is in her first term, having flipped her California district from Republican to Democrat. Apparently, she is trying to make her mark as a relentlessly aggressive questioner.

Porter confronted the CDC director as he tried to give answers as a typical bureaucrat would do. She asked about a specific existing federal statute that gives the director the power to “authorize payment for the care and treatment of patients subject to medical examination, quarantine, isolation, and conditional release.” She demanded to know if he was familiar of the power granted to him in the statute and when he hesitated, she lambasted him. She told him she sent a letter to his office that he would be questioned on it and received confirmation from his office that her letter was received. She also said that she and two other congresswomen sent a letter to his office a week ago seeking answers about how the CDC planned to address insurance issues with COVID-19 testing. The three women gave his office a deadline for Wednesday and they did not receive a response – the hearing was Thursday.

I have two issues with the director’s question and answer time with Rep. Porter. First, this is a hollow victory for the congresswoman. The cost she itemized totaled an estimated $1,331. That’s an expensive price tag for the uninsured, especially for low-income individuals and the unemployed. The problem is, though, that there is an acute shortage of tests available. So, even if a person can afford to get the test, it likely will be difficult to actually get the test done. This will be a more relevant commitment from the CDC if it holds and Dr. Fauci’s prediction that in a week or two there will be a “major increase” in the availability of tests, as he said today in a morning television interview. The point is that there are too few people being tested right now and more tests need to be given so that more accurate numbers of those infected with the virus can be a part of the discussion.

Also, Redfield didn’t specifically say the funding would include the whole bill or just part of it. Would it be for just the test itself or the doctor’s visit or the lab fees? I imagine we’ll be seeing some specifications on all of this soon.

A big part of the tension and panic generated around the COVID-19 virus is a lack of availability of tests. No one can just walk into a clinic or emergency room thinking they have symptoms of the virus and get a test. Testing is done after a doctor has made a recommendation and tracked down a test, at least that is the information being given now. Unfortunately, the test is not widely available right now – it is an area in which the administration was caught flat-footed. Hopefully, an increased partnership with the private sector will speed up test kit assembly and distribution.

The second problem with Redfield’s time before the House Oversight and Reform Committee Thursday points to something I’ve noticed – he often contradicts the Trump administration’s narrative. I can’t tell if it is true disagreement with how the COVID-19 virus pandemic is being handled or if he just caves while being questioned by liberals. He was appointed by President Trump in 2018. Redfield is a renowned virologist and a retired colonel in the Army Medical Corps. To me it sounds as though he is a bit too concerned with being politically correct in his dealings with Congress.

Under questioning from Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FLA), he succumbed to the narrative that calling the coronavirus as the “Chinese coronavirus” is wrong. It’s popular these days for Democrats – many of whom have used the same language at the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic – to accuse people of correctly noting the country of origin of the virus as racist or xenophobic.

“It’s absolutely wrong and inappropriate to call this the Chinese coronavirus, I assume you would agree with that,” Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) said to CDC chief Robert Redfield, who testified in the House on Tuesday morning.

Redfield said “yes,” noting the virus is also widespread in South Korea, Iran and Italy.

The point is that the virus began in China. Feelings don’t trump facts. Democrats with a political agenda can object all they want, but the facts are the facts. Whether it is called the Chinese coronavirus or Wuhan virus or anything else that pinpoints the origin of the virus, the description has nothing to do with racism. Redfield should have articulated that to the congresswoman.

When House Minority Leader McCarthy tweeted out that funding for the border wall is necessary because it, too, will be a tool to contain outbreaks like COVID-19, Democrats clutched their pearls, including Rep. Porter. Presidential candidate Joe Biden joined the chorus.

Trump on Tuesday shared a tweet advocating for his U.S.-Mexico border wall as a way to protect America against the “China Virus.” Adding his own commentary, Trump wrote, “Going up fast. We need the Wall more than ever!”

That prompted Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to slam the president’s comments as racist. “A wall won’t stop a virus. Racism won’t stop a virus. Do your job,” the former vice president tweeted.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) referred to the coronavirus on Twitter as the “Chinese coronavirus.”

Several Democrats condemned McCarthy for what they described as a racist tweet.

“Will stop spread of the coronavirus: washing your hands/staying home if you’re sick,” Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) wrote. “Won’t stop the spread of coronavirus: racism/xenophobia.”

Director Redfield told a congresswoman that he agrees with the anti-wall crowd, at least as far as it is a tool to contain the COVID-19 virus goes.

Appearing before House lawmakers to testify about the public health crisis and the White House’s budget request for his agency, Redfield was asked by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) whether the CDC’s recommendations for combating the coronavirus addressed whether “structural barriers” at the borders “would be of any use in mitigating” the growing outbreak.

“Not that I’ve seen,” Redfield replied.

I’ll end with this tweet from Rep. Crenshaw. He sums it up nicely about the wall and travel bans that Biden has criticized.