Rep. Huffman offers leadership amid crisis
“Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities.”
— Dr. Rick Bright, former federal medical research agency director
Dr. Rick Bright was dismissed from his job fighting the coronavirus pandemic after resisting a dubious presidential directive promoting the use of hydroxychloroquine, an unproven and hazardous drug, ostensibly to prevent contracting the virus. In Congressional testimony this past week, Bright explained that Donald Trump’s desperate fixation on hydroxychloroquine, which can cause dangerous heart problems, was emblematic of the administration’s profound failure to implement a coordinated, science-based national strategy for testing, contact tracing and isolating infected patients. As a result, according to Bright, many Americans have died unnecessarily.
Also last week, a pointed editorial in The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most well-respected medical journals, called the U.S. response to the pandemic “inconsistent and incoherent,” noting the country “is nowhere near able to provide the basic surveillance or laboratory testing infrastructure needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.” The U.S. public health strategy, it said, was being guided by the president’s “partisan politics.”
Congressman Jared Huffman, who has represented Petaluma for more than seven years in Washington, agrees with these assessments. He also concurs with Jerome Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve, who last week declared that “Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery.”
This helps explain why Huffman joined his fellow Democratic House legislators Friday in voting to borrow nearly $3 trillion dollars to correct the Trump administration’s tragically botched response to the virus, provide badly needed relief to state and local governments and help tens of millions of American families who are jobless, hungry, lacking healthcare coverage or unable to pay the rent.
In a thinly veiled reference to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s troubling statement last week that Republicans had not yet felt the “urgency of acting immediately” to address the crisis, Huffman told me on Friday that Democrats “have a different view on the urgency of the matter, and we got tired of waiting for the Republicans to act.”
The proposed legislation, according to Huffman, mandates a coherent, unified national strategy for coronavirus testing, contact tracing and treatment measures to help guide states, counties and healthcare organizations struggling to fend for themselves in the pandemic. “If we don’t get this part right, then none of the other strategies for reopening the economy” will be successful, said Huffman.
Nearly $1 trillion dollars will go to state and local governments to ensure that public safety, health care workers and teachers can continue working. Also included are public subsidies for housing, health care and food stamps.
Acknowledging the extraordinarily steep price tag of the legislation atop the relief measures adopted earlier, Huffman said, “We’re going to have an economic crisis like the Great Depression. The mentality (among Democrats) is to spend whatever it takes to get us through this crisis. The hard part will be paying for it when it’s over.”
While acknowledging Democrats are willing to compromise on some aspects of the bill to win its final passage into law, Huffman said its main components are specifically aimed at saving jobs and lives.