Sen. Elizabeth Warren said the crisis proves “why we need a real plan and an adult in charge.” | Elaine Thompson/AP Photo
Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday pounded the Trump administration for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, accusing the White House of “absolutely bungling” its response to the disease as officials warned a major increase of cases in the U.S. is inevitable and as some in the administration fear the crisis could threaten the reelection of President Donald Trump.
In a slew of tweets posted just a few hours before the Massachusetts Democrat faced off again with her rivals in the latest presidential primary debate, Warren accused Trump of “putting our public health and our economy at risk,” arguing the crisis is proving “why we need a real plan and an adult in charge.”
Warren then went on to explain what she would do about the outbreak as president, while issuing a point-by-point rebuke of where she says the Trump administration is tripping up — building on a policy plan her campaign rolled out in late January for containing and treating coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
Warren’s rebuke of the outbreak response comes as the senator fights to reinvigorate her presidential bid after a string of disappointing finishes in the first three 2020 primary states.
By RACHEL ROUBEIN and ALICE MIRANDA OLLSTEIN
Her near daily posts on social media on the topic also appear to be an attempt to get back to the “I’ve got a plan for that” roots of her surge last year while cutting through the noise and intraparty personal attacks that have dominated the field over the past few weeks.
No other Democratic candidate in the race has released a policy plan as to how they would handle the coronavirus epidemic, even though the issue has dominated recent headlines.
On Tuesday night, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg released a statement blasting the scope and speed of the Trump administration’s epidemic response and pledged to do better if elected.
“In times like this, we need calm, proven leadership in the White House — someone who has led during a crisis, believes in science, invests in prevention and preparation, and listens to advisers, scientists, and public health officials,” Bloomberg said.
Few other Democratic candidates have weighed in.
Joe Biden published an op-ed in late January blasting the administration for implementing “reactionary travel bans” and proposing deep cuts to the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He vowed in the piece to “reassert U.S. leadership in global health security” and “uphold science” as president, but his campaign told POLITICO there are no current plans to detail the specific steps he would take if elected.
The campaign of Pete Buttigieg responded that the former mayor “has been briefed by our policy team and is ready to respond but hasn’t been asked yet” about the virus outbreak. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign did not immediately respond.
Warren is hitting the issue hard as the White House faces a mounting backlash over its response to the outbreak, which originated in China late last year but has sickened more than 80,000 worldwide and killed thousands.
The White House sent a request to Congress on Monday for $2.5 billion in emergency funding to address the public health crisis, a sum panned as a “low ball” request by the GOP Senate Appropriations chairman. Elsewhere on the Hill, lawmakers grilled Trump officials about what the White House is doing to combat the outbreak, while a top CDC official warned that its spread throughout the country is only a matter of time.
On Tuesday, in addition to touting her plan to combat infectious disease outbreaks, Warren whacked the administration for appearing to play down the “health, diplomatic, and economic threat” posed by the epidemic while praising the response of Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose authoritarian government has responded to the disease’s rapid spread with widespread mandatory quarantines and travel restrictions.
Warren continued the pile-on, ripping Trump for trying to cut funding to public health programs, declaring that “we win the fight against outbreaks by preparing and investing in advance, not scrambling once they’ve spread.”
She added: “Even worse, Trump refuses to centralize crisis management in the White House — allowing CDC scientists to be overruled and sowing internal dysfunction. All this mismanagement casts doubt on how effectively he can deploy emergency funding.”
Warren also pointed to the economic fallout of the virus — something that has already spooked the White House and prompted the President to declare — as the Dow plummeted 1,800 points over two days that the stock market was “very good.” But Warren also hit some Trumpian notes as she touted her plan to bring more manufacturing and production jobs back to the U.S., which she said would reduce vulnerability to supply chain disruptions. U.S. dependence on China for pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and other goods has sparked fears of shortages because of the outbreak.
“We should be taking action right now to mitigate the supply chain impacts of the outbreak,” Warren wrote. “The government should be helping American manufacturers find alternative sources for parts and production and helping American exporters find new purchasers.”
Warren concluded: “Like so much else, the Trump administration’s bungled response to the coronavirus outbreak is a mess. As president, I will lead a competent administration prepared to combat outbreaks — because our public health, economy, and national security depend on it.”