Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso, a medical doctor, said on “America’s Newsroom” on Thursday that it is “disturbing” to see Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and other Democrats politicize coronavirus.
“I’m a doctor. My focus is on the health of the American people,” he said. “This should be a bipartisan concern and commitment.”
Barrasso, the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, made the comments as the U.S. government’s response to the coronavirus, which has swept around the world, sickening and killing thousands, has become gripped by political infighting between President Trump and Democrats.
One of the highest-profile confrontations has been the fight over funding to combat the outbreak. Trump requested $2.5 billion in funding from Congress for the coronavirus response, an amount that Schumer said was too little as he panned the Trump administration’s preparedness for a disease federal officials say may cause “severe” disruption to everyday life in the U.S.
“With no plan to deal with the potential public and global health crisis related to the novel coronavirus, the Trump administration made an emergency supplemental appropriations request on Monday,” Schumer said in a statement Wednesday. “It was too little and too late — only $1.25 billion in new funding. For context, Congress appropriated more than $6B for the Pandemic Flu in 2006 and more than $7B for H1N1 flu in 2009.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also knocked the president’s funding request, calling it “completely inadequate” and criticizing the president for previous moves to cut funding to public health programs. She called the response “anemic.”
In his Wednesday night press conference on the coronavirus threat, Trump criticized the Democratic leaders for their tone on funding while fitting in a couple of insults.
“I think she’s incompetent and I think she’s not thinking about the country,” Trump said of Pelosi.
“But we have to work together,” Trump continued. “Instead, she wants to do the same thing with cryin’ Chuck Schumer. He goes out and he says the president only asked for $2.5 billion, he should have $8.5 billion. This is the first time I’ve ever been told that we should take more. Usually, it’s we have to take less.”
Trump also said Pelosi “is trying to create a panic and there is no reason to panic … all they are trying to do is get a political advantage.”
“This isn’t about political advantage. We’re all trying to do the right thing,” Trump continued. “They shouldn’t be saying, ‘This is terrible. President Trump isn’t asking for enough money.’ How stupid a thing to say.”
Pelosi shot back Wednesday tweeting, “Instead of delivering the well-coordinated, fully-funded #coronavirus response Americans deserve, the Trump Admin continues to leave key positions vacant & ransack other vital public health needs.”
On Thursday, Barrasso reacted to what Pelosi and Schumer have said on the topic.
“It’s disturbing to see it [coronavirus] politicized as Chuck Schumer has done on the floor of the Senate and how the Democrats did in the debate in South Carolina with all the piling on trying to, in my opinion, play politics in an area where we should be focused on public health and public safety,” Barrasso said.
He then pointed out that he has not seen Schumer “at any one of these briefings and I’ve attended all of them.”
“But he is certainly speaking out on the floor of the Senate,” Barrasso noted. “I think it’s a mistake to do that. I think we ought to be focused on public health right now, not on trying to gain political points, which is what I see the Democrats trying to do.”
Fox News’ Tyler Olson contributed to this report.