WASHINGTON—President Donald Trumps budget director is pushing back against Democratic presidential candidates who assert that the United States is ill-prepared for the COVID-19 outbreak and also have accused Trump of slashing the budget for tackling emerging infectious diseases.
Russ Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, responded to those claims on Feb. 29.
“Its totally inaccurate,” Vought told The Epoch Times in an interview for the “American Thought Leaders” program. “And its based on not understanding different accounts within the CDC.”
During last weeks Democratic primary debate in South Carolina, several candidates, including Michael Bloomberg and Joe Biden, accused Trump of cutting funds for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), seriously impairing the countrys readiness to tackle the outbreak.
Vought said the current funding level is larger than previous emergency response efforts to address the Ebola outbreak of 2014.
In fiscal year 2015, the Obama administration designated $597 million under the CDC budget to support national public health institutes and global health security for five years. That meant roughly $119 million per year, Vought said.
And in the past two years under the Trump administration, that funding became permanent and was increased to $125 million in fiscal year 2020, he said.
“And in this latest budget, we provide $175 million for it,” he said, referring to the presidents budget proposal released in February. The amount implies an increase of $50 million compared to the 2020 enacted level.
“So its going in the other direction,” Vought said.
The allegations are based on “some leaked reports of contingency planning by CDC as if [the funds] were going to expire. But the funding was provided. So its really basically an inaccurate story.”
Vought also noted that the presidents latest budget has provided overall “$4.3 billion, an increase of 3 percent for CDCs fight against infectious disease and emergency preparedness.”
During the Democratic primary debate on Feb. 25, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched an attack on Trump, blaming him for defunding the CDC. He also raised alarm about the countrys lack of preparation.
“Theres nobody here to figure out what the hell we should be doing. And hes defunded—hes defunded Centers for Disease Control, CDC, so we dont have the organization we need. This is a very serious thing,” he said.
Former Vice President Joe Biden echoed similar comments during the debate. He claimed that the CDC and National Institutes of Health (NIH) budgets were higher under the Obama administration.
“[Trump] has wiped all that out. … He cut the funding for the entire effort,” he said.
Bloomberg continued his attacks the next day by launching a 30-second ad, titled “Pandemic,” asserting that the country is “underprepared for coronavirus due to Trump cuts.”
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