NEW–KENTUCKY BACKGROUND: Senators McConnell and Paul Delay Biden’s Pick for Health Secretary Nominee as Kentucky’s COVID Numbers Climb
COVID-19 cases continue to devastate Kentucky as hospital ICU capacity reaches 68% and only 1.5% of Kentuckians have been fully vaccinated
As Senate Minority Leader, McConnell has used his power and Senate procedure to obstruct the Biden administration from moving quickly on the formation of its Cabinet
Paul has voted against three of Biden’s Cabinet nominees, with more objections expected
As a member of Senate Health Committee, Paul has a responsibility to swiftly confirm Biden’s Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Xavier Becerra, and to stop the obstruction that has left the department without leadership as COVID-19 continues to devastate Kentucky
Washington, D.C. – Today, the Accountable Senate War Room released a background brief outlining the ongoing devastation COVID-19 has had on the state of Kentucky, highlighting the increasing need to get the pandemic under control. While Kentuckians are fighting for their lives against the pandemic and its subsequent economic impacts, their senators have worked to obstruct the confirmation process of President Biden’s Cabinet nominees, including his pick for HHS secretary, Xavier Becerra, leaving Kentuckians behind in the process.
“From the outset, Kentucky Senators McConnell and Paul have stood in the way of the Biden administration fully forming its Cabinet to get the American people back on their feet and fight the pandemic. Using Senate procedure to delay, obstruct, and stall the confirmation process doesn’t help Kentuckians get back on their feet — it hurts them by denying the life-saving aid they so desperately need,” said Mairead Lynn, spokesperson for Accountable Senate War Room. “With every passing day, Kentuckians are facing new health, economic, and national security crises, and without a health secretary in place to help combat some of the toughest challenges our country is facing, they are being left to fend for themselves.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed a simple organizing resolution in the Senate for weeks, halting committees’ important work and leaving the confirmation process of critical nominees, including Biden’s HHS secretary, at a standstill. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, of which Senator Paul is a senior member, has not yet scheduled a hearing on Becerra, despite the committee moving forward with other nominees this week. Delays to Becerra’s confirmation mean delays to Kentuckians getting safely back to work and getting vaccinated, and prevent the Biden administration from getting to work tackling some of the toughest challenges our country faces.
BACKGROUND BRIEF: The impact of obstruction in Kentucky
Throughout the pandemic, Kentucky has had over 367,000 cases and nearly 4,000 deaths. As hospital ICU capacity climbs to nearly 70%, a slow-moving vaccination process leaves only 1.5% of Kentuckians completely vaccinated, emphasizing the need for an expanded national vaccination program to be put in place as soon as possible. And, while Kentuckians climb this uphill battle, perhaps the biggest barriers to getting them the help they need are their own senators.
Before losing his role as Majority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell mapped out his plans to obstruct and even completely reject some of Biden’s nominees, explaining “They [Biden’s nominees] aren’t all going to pass on a voice vote, and they aren’t all going to make it […].” Even with Democrats in control of the Senate and McConnell’s demotion to Minority Leader, he has still found ways to delay and obstruct the confirmation process of President Biden’s nominees, including initial refusal on a simple organizing resolution that would let Democrats take control of Committees to keep confirmations moving forward. Nearly three weeks into the Biden administration and formal Democratic control of the Senate, McConnell has finally agreed to a power-sharing agreement. With several nominees still left to be confirmed, McConnell must put his constituents ahead of his power-grabbing attempts.
As a member of the HELP committee, Senator Paul has made objections to Xavier Becerra’s nomination from the beginning. Rather than focus on Becerra’s qualifications, Paul’s obstruction stems from pure political animosity, resorting to making extreme and inaccurate claims about his positions on reproductive health. What Paul should be concerned about are the 450,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 — including 4,000 Kentuckians — and those who will continue to get sick and die while Paul makes bad-faith arguments to delay Becerra’s confirmation. Almost a year into our country’s fight with COVID-19, Americans shouldn’t have to pay the deadly price of Paul’s political preferences. These delays are the difference between life and death for Kentuckians, and Paul must get out of the way and let the Biden administration get to work addressing the pandemic, starting with naming Becerra as HHS secretary.
The Department of Health and Human Services plays a major role in the work that must be done to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control. After being left with a “nonexistent coronavirus vaccine distribution plan” by the outgoing Trump administration, President Biden is essentially starting “from scratch” and needs his HHS secretary in place to help distribute hundreds of millions of vaccine doses across the country. Further delays could cause vaccines to expire before being administered, forcing life-saving doses to be tossed in the trash. Senate Republicans failed to do their job while they had power during the lame-duck period. It’s time for Republicans to work across the aisle to ensure the Biden administration has all the tools to combat the COVID crisis as quickly and effectively as possible, starting with Becerra’s swift confirmation.
Here’s a quick snapshot of the COVID-19 situation in Kentucky:
- Total Case Count: 367,163
- Daily Case Count Average: 2,523
- Total Death Count: 3,977
- Hospital ICU Occupancy Rate: 68%
- Kentuckians Completely Vaccinated: 1.5%
- Kentuckians Who Received At Least One Vaccine Dose: 7.6%
- Percent Of Vaccine Supply Distributed: 62%
- Disproportionate Racial Impacts:
- Black Kentuckians, Native Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, and Pacific Islanders were more likely to contract COVID-19 than white Kentuckians.
- Black Kentuckians were more likely to die from COVID-19 than white Kentuckians.