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Multiple governors are frustrated with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’s notable absence from their weekly COVID-19 conference calls, RealClearPolitics reports.
While other task force members such as White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients and White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci are present at the meetings, state leaders such as New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, both Republicans, aren’t afraid to publicly condemn Biden and Harris’s absence.
“It would go a long way if the president would just get on the phone, or the vice president would get on the phone and take questions. Allow us to ask the folks in charge questions,” Sununu said.
Other governors were reportedly less willing to speak on the record but expressed similar concerns about “the lack of guidance on how to spend the money allocated in the American Rescue Plan to the vaccine distribution schedule,” and “felt particularly blindsided by news that the Food and Drug Administration was putting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on hold after a small number of recipients experienced blood clots.”
While Harris popped into one of the weekly meetings for a few minutes, the White House has largely stepped back from taking the lead in the governors’ calls. Instead, the scandal-plagued New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was tasked with facilitating the state leaders’ conversations, despite being under investigation for possible abuse of state resources, sexual misconduct, and a coverup of nursing home deaths due to his own fatal policy.
“It really is not the type of bipartisan partnership that the president promised when he came into office in his inaugural address. It really is much more of a top-down, we-are-going-to-do-what-we-are-going-to-do thought process,” Ricketts said.
As noted by RealClearPolitics, former President Donald Trump attended eight of the 40 conference calls held during his administration. Then-Vice President Mike Pence, who led the White House COVID-19 task force, however, was present and led all but one of the meetings.
During Monday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki initially refused to answer RealClearPolitics’ White House reporter Philip Wegmann’s questions about Biden’s failure to attend COVID calls and instead confronted him about how many governors he relied on for the story.
“How many governors? So, how many governors have you heard from?” Psaki pressed.
The press secretary then continued to justify the president’s absence from the calls by claiming he never had any plans to be on them.
“We’ve never conveyed it as a call that would be a part of his agenda, so I’m not sure there’s like a big controversy here,” Psaki said before moving on to another reporter’s question.
Biden and Harris’s nonattendance was largely glossed over by the corporate media and brushed off by many of the same Democrats who attacked Trump for “downplaying” COVID and having “one of the worst COVID responses” in the world.