Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy laced into Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on Wednesday, questioning the Trump administration’s readiness for the coronavirus pandemic.
Leahy and Carson sparred during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the HUD fiscal 2021 budget. The testy exchange began when Leahy asked Carson about testing and containment of the COVID-19 illness.
“Is the virus being contained, that’s an easy yes or no,” Leahy asked.
“We’re making every attempt to contain the virus as much as we can,” the HUD secretary said.
Leahy cut Carson off, before asking again and getting the same answer.
“That’s a no,” Leahy said.
Leahy then pointed to a quote from President Donald Trump, who suggested, “anyone who wants a test can get a test” for the novel coronavirus, and asked Carson if patients in states like Washington or Vermont can get tested.
The former pediatric neurosurgeon said testing in some places has proven easier than others. After further questioning, Carson said in places like Vermont and Washington state, “many” people are able to get testing.
“If you need one tomorrow you can get it,” Carson said to Leahy. The Vermont Democrat, surprised by the remark, pointed out Carson was contradicting himself.
“I said you, you Senator Leahy,” Carson said, explaining he meant tests are available in Washington, D.C.
“Come on, Doctor, you’re making this stuff up. Be honest with the American people, they are concerned,” Leahy said.
“I’m not making anything up,” Carson said.
Lawmakers on the Hill have been on high alert as the virus has now reached 114 countries, with over 118,000 confirmed cases. Major stock market indexes had a rough day, some entering bear market territory.
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic Wednesday, as top U.S. public health officials warned lawmakers the virus’ spread will worsen in the coming weeks and called for aggressive mitigation.