Posted for: Willie Wonka
Democratic officials, along with members of the health care establishment, are reportedly fretting over the possibility that Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul will become the most powerful legislator on the Senate’s top healthcare committee.
With current Ranking Member Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, set to retire, Paul will become the most senior Republican on the Senate Heath, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee in the next Congress. If Republicans win control of the Senate in Tuesday’s midterm elections, Paul could become the chairman of the committee, which has taken charge of overseeing and investigating the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response.
Some onlookers are apparently dreading that possibility.
White House officials are grimacing at these three words: Chairman Rand Paul.
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) November 2, 2022
“Oh, dear God,” one anonymous senior Biden administration official said to The Washington Post regarding the HELP Committee’s role in re-authorizing several pandemic programs set to expire at the end of fiscal year 2023. Several other officials expressed concern over the fact that Paul hasn’t shown much interest in cooperating with the administration on this particular issue.
Various members of the healthcare establishment bad-mouthed Paul to The Post, as well. “He has not been an exemplar of prevention or wellness,” said executive director of the American Public Health Association Georges C. Benjamin. “That is a real problem when you’re a physician … you should know better.”
“A certain group of Republicans feel that the actions by the public health leadership defied personal liberties, were reckless, were unaccountable. And they want to exact a price for that,” J. Stephen Morrison, who supervises global health policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, reportedly added. “They’re not thinking about what needs to be changed to protect Americans.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, for his part, has expressed openness to cooperating with Republicans who may want to investigate him during the next Congress. He’s repeatedly stated he’ll work with legislators and comply with any subpoenas, although with the caveat he’ll only do so within reason.
Fauci and Paul have already butted heads numerous times during hearings of the HELP Committee. Paul has accused President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser of “fear-mongering” and lying. Fauci has blamed Paul for threats of violence made against himself and his family.
Paul’s campaign website even features a “#FireFauci” section. Fauci has announced he’ll retire from his role as the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the end of 2022 to pursue other ventures.
COVID-19 isn’t the only issue on which Paul could create headaches for Democrats. He has been a loud opponent of taxpayer funding for abortion, as well as gender-reassignment treatments for minors, both positions that are contrary to the Biden administration and many public health groups.
It could all be a moot point, though. Paul is also in the running to chair the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and it’s unclear which position he would choose if given the opportunity.