Schumer Floor Remarks On The Introduction Of President-Elect Biden’s Healthcare Team And Calling On Chairman Johnson To Revoke His Invitation Of A Prominent Anti-Vaxxer To Appear Before The Homeland Security Committee Tomorrow

December 7, 2020

Washington, D.C. — Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding President-elect Biden’s selection of Xavier Becerra to be HHS Secretary, Dr. Vivek Murthy to be Surgeon General, and Dr. Rochelle Walensky to be CDC Director and called for them to be confirmed quickly so that the new administration can fight the ongoing pandemic. Senator Schumer also highlighted the contrast between the announcement of these qualified nominees with Senate Republicans’ calling on a prominent anti-vaccine activist to testify before the Homeland Security Committee tomorrow. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

The incoming Biden administration continues to name candidates it will tap to lead cabinet agencies and other key positions in the federal government.

Today, President-elect Biden introduced his health care team, including Dr. Fauci, who will stay on, thank god, as Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. Vivek Murthy to serve as Surgeon General, Dr. Rochelle Walensky to head the CDC, and Xavier Becerra, the Attorney General of California, to be the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. Like most of President-elect Biden’s selections so far, Mr. Becerra’s nomination is groundbreaking. He would be the first Latino to ever run the Department of Health and Human Services.

Now, these nominees, once confirmed, will face a monumental task. President-elect Biden will inherit a once-in-a-generation health care crisis, a crisis made worse by the Trump Administration’s lack of focus, competency, and consistency over the past year. By naming a deeply experienced and tested team of senior health care advisors, President-elect Biden is getting ready to right the ship—and execute a whole-of-government approach to crushing the virus and providing affordable health care to all Americans.

As safe and effective vaccines become available over the next year, President-elect Biden’s team will also have to work with states and health care providers to get Americans vaccinated.

To state the obvious: health care is going to be the number one challenge when the new administration takes office. We’re in the middle of a once-in-a-century public health crisis. Accordingly, President-elect Biden’s team should be confirmed swiftly to ensure that no time is lost in the fight against the pandemic.

Regrettably, there is split screen this week between the seriousness of the incoming Biden Administration and the activities of the Republican majority here in the Senate.

On Tuesday, the Republican Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee has invited Dr. Jane Orient to give testimony at a hearing in his committee. Dr. Orient is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a benign-sounding name that obscures some dangerous policies. According to the New York Times, Dr. Orient’s association “opposes government involvement in medicine and views federal vaccine mandates as a violation of human rights.”

Dr. Orient herself has expressed skepticism about coronavirus vaccines and continues to hawk hydroxichloriquine as a COVID-19 treatment, following the lead of President Trump, who boosted the drug despite scientific evidence that it is ineffective.

So while President-elect Biden is nominating experienced, committed public servants to lead the next administration’s health care policy, the next administrations healthcare policy, the Republican majority is inviting prominent anti-vaxxers to Senate Committee hearings.

A study in contrasts, to say the least.

After one of the most difficult years in recent memory, we finally have a light at the end of the tunnel in the discovery of several effective and safe vaccines. They are the best chance we have of ending the terrible scourge of this disease and getting our lives back to normal. And yet, the effectiveness of a vaccine only matters in so far as the number of Americans who are willing to take it.

The more Senate Republicans dip their toes into the water of these anti-science, anti-vax conspiracy theories, the more damage it does to our country. Public figures at all levels should be building up confidence in a vaccine, not giving a platform to those who would undermine it.

The Senator from Wisconsin, The Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee should revoke his invitation to Dr. Orient.