First there was a Paycheck Protection Program. Now a Democratic senator wants a Dr. Fauci Protection Act.
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., in a potentially heated reelection primary with a Kennedy family scion, has come out in favor of making it harder to fire the directors within the National Institutes of Health. Anthony Fauci, who has taken a starring role in President Donald Trump’s daily coronavirus briefings, heads up the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“Our response to the coronavirus crisis must be based on science, on data, and on the truth. We cannot allow Donald Trump to silence Dr. Fauci or any other government scientists. Now more than ever, we must listen to our public health, medical, and scientific experts,” Markey said Tuesday in a press release issued with the text of the bill he plans to introduce.
Conservatives have been agitating against Fauci for weeks. Speculation that the president might actually remove him flared after Fauci said on CNN there would have been fewer deaths if coronavirus mitigation tactics had been put in place earlier.
Later that day, the president reposted a tweet that referenced Fauci’s comments and said “Time to #FireFauci.”
Fauci tried to minimize the damage Monday, saying he had used a poor choice of words. A White House spokesman also denied the president was going to fire Fauci.
Despite his fame, much of it earned in his work fighting HIV in previous decades, Fauci is pretty far down the public health organizational ladder. The NIH is part of the Public Health Service, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Fauci answers to NIH Director Francis Collins and is just one of 27 directors of various NIH institutes and centers, which focus on areas as diverse as neurological health, nursing research and scientific review. The directors are appointed to five-year terms.
Markey says his bill would “close the hole” in the law that he said leaves Fauci vulnerable. It would make directors removable only for “malfeasance by, neglect of office by, or incapacity of the director.”
“If Donald Trump doesn’t like science-based evidence because it doesn’t support his partisan, fact-free view of the world, he cannot be permitted to silence the truth-tellers,” said Markey, who’s running against Rep. Joseph Kennedy III in the Democratic Senate primary.
Originally Posted on MarketWatch
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