Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday scolded Gov. Andrew Cuomo for “undermining public confidence” in COVID-19 vaccines and “performatively opposing” President Trump.
McConnell (R-Ky.) slammed Cuomo’s Monday remark that Pfizer’s breakthrough on a vaccine was “bad news” because it occurred under Trump’s administration. The Post reported Wednesday that Cuomo skipped 17 governor calls with the White House coronavirus task force designed to brief state leaders on the vaccine development and rejected an offer to meet last month with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
“The Democratic governor of New York opined a few days ago that it was ‘bad news’ that a vaccine breakthrough may have reached because President Trump is still in office,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
“I understand Gov. Cuomo has found the time during this pandemic to write and publish a self-congratulatory book on leadership — this notwithstanding that his own state has absolutely been pummeled by the disease, and his own administration intentionally sent thousands of COVID-19-positive patients into vulnerable nursing homes.”
McConnell, a childhood polio survivor, noted that the Trump administration in September asked state governments to develop plans for distribution of a vaccine. The first wave of vaccinations, potentially this year, would go to vulnerable people including nursing home residents under a federal deal reached last month with CVS and Walgreen.
“The governor has the temerity to say this vaccine breakthrough is partially bad news — partially bad news? — because it occurred under the Trump administration. He gestured vaguely toward unspecified concerns about distribution. I guess you would have preferred the lifesaving breakthroughs have been delayed longer — be delayed longer with more American deaths in the meantime?” McConnell said.
“The irony … is that the plans that are in place put states in the driver’s seat for arranging distribution and making sure the most vulnerable citizens receive access. The federal government is there to provide guidance and support … the governor of New York might want to devote more time and attention to developing this crucial plan, rather than undermining public confidence for the sake of politics.”
Mitch McConnellCQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
McConnell also rebuked Cuomo for suggesting redundant state review of any vaccine for the respiratory bug.
“Just a few weeks ago, the Democratic governors of both New York and California both began openly second-guessing the Food and Drug Administration and doubting its ability to assess the safety of a vaccine,” McConnell said.
“There was suggestions that blue states may set up their own state review boards, and then withhold life-saving vaccines from their own people for who knows how long until this extra obstacle had been hurdled. This is where they are: Vaccines aren’t vaccines if a Republican is president until New York and California reinvent their own miniature FDAs.”
The FDA is a “trusted authority,” McConnell said. “Nobody’s crying out for liberal governors to add their own Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, let alone potentially delay the end of COVID-19 to do so. If this vaccine proves to be the one, citizens in New York and California should not have it withheld from them because their governors care more about performatively opposing President Trump than about hard science.”
McConnell linked Cuomo’s vaccine remarks to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ campaign-trail suggestion that she might not take an inoculation approved under Trump.
“This reminds me of when the junior senator from California declared back in September during her vice presidential campaign that she might hesitate — hesitate — to trust the vaccine,” he said.
Andrew CuomoAFP via Getty Images
“The whole country understands that our Democratic friends are not charter members of the Donald Trump fan club … they do not need to dabble in the early stages of anti-vax conspiracy theories to prove it. In fact, for the sake of public health and public confidence and saving lives, they have a moral obligation to stop it. If a vaccine has been found and distribution can begin soon, that’s good news, not bad news.”
Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi accused McConnell of misrepresenting his remarks and returned fire by attacking Kentucky’s pandemic performance. Kentucky has been led throughout the crisis by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.
“Senator McConnell has an issue with the truth. Governor Cuomo said the vaccine is of course good news — the bad news is Trump is in charge of its distribution and they refuse to provide the states the necessary resources to get the vaccine to the very underserved black and brown communities that have already suffered from the highest covid rates. In McConnell’s own state the covid mortality rate is 35 percent higher among blacks, obviously the senator is not concerned with equal protection or civil rights,” Azzopardi told The Post.
“For McConnell to talk about nursing home deaths is the height of hypocrisy. More than 60 percent of all COVID deaths in Kentucky were in nursing homes, compared to 26 percent in New York. His duplicity is only outdone by his lack of credibility. We also ask McConnell to stop redistributing income and taking money from New Yorkers to subsidize his state. Remember when Republicans were against redistribution of income and supporters of equal rights for minority communities? What happened to them?”